Fr Rodney Kissinger, S.J

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St. Thomas said that the “Our Father” is an absolutely perfect prayer, not only because it was taught by our Lord but also because of its content. It has been called a resume of the entire Gospel. St. Augustine said that if we pray it as it should be prayed we would be unable to find anything further to say.

The first two words, “Our Father,” define our relationship with God, and with one another. God is our loving, provident Father and we are all this children. We are all brothers and sisters. There are no isolated, rugged individuals in this family. We live in the beautiful home of our Father where there is love, serenity and freedom.

“Our Father who art in heaven.” God is transcendent, that is, he is distinct from and superior to us, and existed before us. To him we are responsible and we must render an account of our stewardship.

“Hallowed be thy name.” Part of the Sinai covenant was, “You shall not take the name of God in vain.” The Jews revered the name of God so highly that they never even mentioned the name of God. In Hebrew the name stands for the whole character of the person. To know someone’s name was to know that person. God is incomprehensible. To use God’s name would be to reduce God to a creature.

“Thy kingdom come.” The kingdom of God begins in this life and reaches its fulfillment in the next life. It is a kingdom of justice, peace, love and joy in which Jesus is the king. It is a kingdom we are to seek first of all and then all the rest will be added to us.

“Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The will of God is the most perfect thing we can do. God knows what is best for us and he wants what is best for us. Nothing happens in this world by chance; it is either positively willed by God or at least permitted by God. And to those who love him all of these things work together for good.

What follows is essentially a prayer of petition: pardon for the past, provision for the present and protection for the future. It is also a prayer of intercession because we pray not only for ourselves but also for all of our brothers and sisters in God’s family.

“Give.” Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you…for everyone who asks receives…If you who are evil know how to give good things to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give GOOD things to those who ask him.” (Matt. 7:7-11) We do not ask to inform God of our needs, he knows them already. We ask to remind ourselves of our dependence on God and God’s lavish generosity. Jesus said GOOD things. He will not give us what will harm us, even though we persistently ask for them.

“Us.” We ask not only for ourselves but for the whole human family. This is not only a prayer of petition it is also a prayer of intercession.

“This day.” We do not ask for tomorrow. We live in the present reality. Yesterday is gone, tomorrow may never come. We commit yesterday to the mercy of God and tomorrow to his divine providence. We live on the grace of the present moment. By living today we make a beautiful dream of the past and a wonderful hope for the future.

“Our daily bread.” Bread for the soul as well as for the body. How fortunate we are to live in this country where there is religious freedom and where we can receive the Eucharist every day if we wish. The harvest is so great that we do not have enough storage bins to hold the surplus and this at a time when millions of people throughout the world are hungry.

“Forgive us our trespasses.” Human nature being what it is, it is not possible for people to live together for very long without having to forgive and be forgiven. We are all sinners, actually in the past, potentially in the future and always carrying this treasure in a very fragile vessel.

“As we forgive those who trespass against us.” If we wish to be forgiven by God we must forgive those who offend us. We must forgive others also for our own physical, emotional and psychological well being. If we refuse to forgive and harbor this resentment in our heart it will take away our appetite, rob us of our sleep, give us ulcers and put us in a hospital. And most important of all we must forgive ourselves. If God has forgiven us how can we refuse to forgive ourselves? Are we greater than God?

“Lead us not into temptation.” God does not tempt anyone, but he permits us to be tempted to keep us from getting proud, and to keep us close to him. But he never permits us to be tempted beyond our strength to resist.

“Deliver us from evil.” Deliver us from the worse evil which is to be separated from God. Deliver us also from the occasions of evil. Virtue is often the lack of opportunity.

“Amen.” So be it.

What about the Doxology? “For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever.” It is not in the biblical text. Some ancient manuscripts add it to the end of the prayer. It is good, solid Catholic doctrine and is often used as a liturgical ending. In the Mass the prayer “Deliver us Lord”…is inserted between the Our Father and the Doxology.

The “Our Father” is really the perfect prayer, not only because it was taught by our Lord but also because of it content. If we say it as it should be said, we will not be able to find anything further to say.


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