One of the Lenten season’s important lessons is this: praying is not for God’s sake, but for our own. It is important for us to become deeply aware of our needs, of our basic helplessness, and of our total dependence on God. It is then that we can pray as Jesus taught us to pray. Strictly speaking, however, the Lord’s Prayer (the Our Father) is not a prayer to be recited. It is a way of praying; it is a list of the things we need to pray about. And it is less our telling God what we want Him to do than making ourselves aware of the ways by which we can become more united with Him. Here are a few insights:
Our Father: God is the source of all our life and all we have and are. We say ‘our’ and that ‘our’ includes every single person.
Holy be your name, your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven: The three petitions are really saying the same thing. Obviously, in one sense, we cannot make God’s name more holy than it is. But we do need to respect that awesome holiness and that is more for our sake than God’s. We want God’s will for this world to be also the will of people everywhere. Clearly, all this has to begin with ourselves.
Give us this day our daily bread: This petition rules out excessive anxiety about the future. Our hope is that we will come to work together to ensure that no one goes hungry.
Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who have trespassed against us: Should we really pray this way of we are not ready to do it? Do we need to pray harder for a forgiving heart? (Remember: “If you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive your failings either.” (see Matt 18, 21-35, about the unforgiving servant)
Do not put us to the test, but save us from the evil one: A final plea that we will not fail, but that God’s help will be with us all the way. It is an admission of our basic impotence to set things right in our own lives and in the world. Isn’t it true that we need all the help we can get?
It has been said that if this prayer were to really enter our hearts and minds, we would become deeply transformed people. Therefore, let us pray it faithfully – and let us live it as well.