The Our Father has the distinction of being one of the few prayers that Jesus personally gave us. To be sure, the Mass is far more important, but it has had many additions to it, and can only be truly said by a priest. The Our Father is meant to be said by all, and has survived unchanged since it was first given to us. As it was given to us by God, who has infinite intellect, one expects it to have an infinite meaning. Hence, its being a favorite topic for the Fathers of the Church. While my analysis of it is much briefer and less profound then theirs, perhaps it will serve as a useful introduction.
Our Father, who art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
God is both our Father, and God. He is infinitely merciful and loving, but at the same time, his name is hallowed, he is above us. It’s one of the paradoxes of God that he can be both so close and so far from us. He gives us his body to eat and his blood to drink, but he remains so sacred that to use his name improperly is a mortal sin. The first line emphasizes both these sides of God, lest we think of him either as a distant impersonal ruler, or just as “One of the bro’s”.
Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done
In this line, we are praying to God that he will do what he wants to do. It seems a bit odd at first. Nobody runs up to me and says “Henry, please eat that unhealthy looking pizza. It’s what you want to do.” (Told you this was going to be different then the Church Fathers’ version.) But in God’s case it makes perfect sense. What does God will? He wishes that we love him, obey his commandments, and be happy, both on earth and in heaven. We are free Human beings, and God will not override our will. By praying to him that his will be done, we are asking him to help us fulfill his will. We are asking for the graces to overcome our base passions.
On Earth as it is in Heaven.
How are God’s commands fulfilled in Heaven? Halfheartedly, or with a burning love? So many theological controversies today revolve around “What can I get away with?” This should not be our attitude. Our attitude should be one who cannot ever be satisfied with what he has given, and always seeks to give more.
Give us this day our daily Bread
We are dependent on God for everything, both spiritually and physically. Bread is the symbol of both these things, as bread not only nourishes us daily, but also is God’s instrument of Transubstantiation. Without God, we have nothing. He alone can provide.
And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
This part continues the theme of the supplicant, but in a different way. Now, we beg for mercy, demonstrating our sin. But, what is more, humanity is no longer passive here. God is the source of all good, as the last lines have shown. But humanity does not get that good scot-free. His forgiveness is conditional. To be forgiven, Man must forgive. In other words, our actions do make a real difference, it is not just God’s grace. Very worth noting to certain protestant groups.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
As our Father, God has several roles; the sacred role, the filial duty and respect that every parent is owed. The role of a ruler; every man is king of his own household, and commands those within. The Role of provider; every father must care for his children. The role of judge; every father must raise his son to righteousness, and both condemn his faults and accept his apologies. Now, we come to the final role: The role of a guide. Christ is our Shepherd, and we pray that he will not take us where our souls may be endangered, nor that he leave us in our sin. The good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep, as Christ did indeed do. No matter how deadly the peril, Christ will save us from it.
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