An Exposition of the Our Father
The Our Father is the best of all prayers because it is the Lord's Prayer, taught by Jesus Christ Himself, and because it is a prayer of perfect and unselfish love. The Our Father is a prayer of perfect and unselfish love because in saying it we offer ourselves entirely to God and ask from Him the best things, not only for ourselves but also for our neighbor.
Let's take a closer look at Matthew 6:9:
'You therefore shall pray in this manner: Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses (or debts) as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.'
Verse 9...As God is the common Father of all, we pray for all. Let none fear on account of their lowly situation here, for all are comprised in the same Heavenly nobility.
The word 'our' is important. It is in the plural. Christ has highly recommended prayer in common in which we as God's children who love one another unite to ask our loving Father for what we need. The official prayer of the whole Church as a body is called the Liturgy. This public prayer of the Church is of far more value than private prayer, even though this too is necessary and highly important.
We address God as 'Father who art in heaven' because we belong to Him, our loving Father, who created us and watches over us, who adopts us through sanctifying Grace as His children, and who destines us to live forever with Him in Heaven, our true home and last end.
By Saying, 'who art in Heaven,' he does not mean to insinuate that He is there only in Heaven, but wishes to withdraw the humble petitioner from Earth, and fix his attention on Heaven, says St. John Chrysostom.
Other prayers are not forbidden. Our Blessed Lord prayed in different words as we read in John chapter 8; and the Apostles prayed in different words as we read in Acts 1:24, but this is an example of the simple style to be used in prayer, and is applicable to all occasions.
Hallowed be Thy Name...comes from the word 'Holy,' be held and kept holy, be glorified by us, and that not only by our words, but principally by the lives we lead. The honor and glory of God should be the principal subject of our prayers, and the ultimate end of our every action; every other thing must be subordinate to this. When we say this we are simply praying that God may be known and honored by all men.
The 'Name' of course, represents the person. God's name represents God Himself. The first desire of love is that God should be known, loved, and honored by all. In Exodus 3:13-15 we find the four Hebrew letters spelling out 'Yahweh,' meaning I AM who Am.
Verse 10: Thy Kingdom Come...When we say this, we pray that the Kingdom of God's grace may be spread throughout the world, that all men may come to know and enter the true Church and to live as worthy members of it, and that, finally, we all may be admitted to the Kingdom of God's Glory.
Those who desire to arrive at the Kingdom of Heaven, must endeavor so to order their life and conversation, as if they were already conversing in Heaven. This humble petition is also to be understood for the accomplishment of the Divine Will in every part of the world, for the extirpation of error, and explosion of vice, that truth and virtue may everywhere obtain, and Heaven and earth differ no more in honoring the Supreme majesty of God. -- St. John Chrysostom.
True love desires that God's Kingdom, the Church, should spread on earth until the day when Christ will come again to take us all, body and soul, to Heaven.
Thy Will be done on earth...We are praying that all men may obey God on earth as willingly as the Saints and Angels do in Heaven. We are asking God for our love to grow to perfection. Love seeks to do God's will and to please Him perfectly. We ask that our love will grow till we love Him as much as He is loved in heaven where all love is perfect. We, therefor, are asking Him to make us Saints.
Verse 11...Our Supersubstantial Bread...as it appears in the Latin text, yet we have adopted the same word in Greek, as St. Luke translates it, 'Our Daily Bread.' This translation was used in the Second and Third Centuries, as we find in the writings of Tertullian and St. Cyprian. Perhaps the Latin word, 'Supersubstantial' may bear the same sense as daily bread, but for bread which is daily added, to maintain and support the substance of our bodies.
Dr. Witham, the 18th century theologian, says, 'In St. Luke the same word is rendered 'daily bread.' It is understood of the Bread of Life, which we receive in the Blessed Sacrament.'
Sigonius, the late 16th Century Theologian says this, 'It is also understood of the supernatural support of the grace of God, and especially of the Bread of Life received in the Holy Eucharist.'
'As we are only to pray for our daily bread, we are not to be over solicitous for the morrow, now for the things of this earth, but being satisfied with what is necessary, turn all our thoughts to the joys of Heaven.' -- St. John Chrysostom.
We can conclude then when we say 'give us this day our daily bread,' we are praying that God will give us each day all that is necessary to support the material life of our bodies and the spiritual life of our souls.
Verse 12...Of all the petitions this one is repeated twice. God puts our judgment in our own hands, that none might complain, being the author of His own sentence. He could have forgiven us our sins without this condition, but He consulted our good, in affording us opportunities of practicing daily the virtues of piety and mildness.
'These trespasses or debts signify not only mortal but venial sins, as St. Augustine often teaches. Therefore every man, be he ever so just, yet because he cannot live without venial sin, ought to say this prayer.' -- St. John Chrysostom.
Verse 13: 'Lead us Not into Temptation'...God is not the tempter of evil, nor is He the author of sin (James 1:13). He tempts no man; we pray that He would not suffer the devil to tempt us above our strength; that he would remove the temptations, or enable us to overcome them, and deliver us from evil, particularly the evil of sin.
It is not a sin to be tempted. Our Blessed Lord Himself was tempted. We also must be tempted if we are to acquire any virtue. But we pray that when temptation comes, as it so often does, that we may not be overcome by it.
Verse 14 'As we forgive those who trespass against us'...Here again Jesus recommends the forgiving of others, as the means of obtaining forgiveness.
In this sentence, Jesus reminds us that if we want God's merciful love to forgive us the horrible offenses of sin, we must love others enough to forgive them their offenses against us.
The Crucified Christ gave us a perfect example of this in Luke 23:34:
'Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.'
'Deliver us from evil'...We are praying that God will always protect us from harm and especially from harm to our souls. We are also asking that the bodily evils, sickness, suffering, poverty, etc., will never become so severe that we cannot bear them with the grace of God.
There are Seven Petitions in the Our Father. They are:
1) God's Glory
We cannot really desire what these petitions express unless we love unselfishly, for they are arranged in the order of love. We must, for example, be more desirous that God's will should be done than that we should escape our own troubles.Tim Rash
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