The Lord’s Prayer – What It Really Means

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The place where Jesus taught the disciples to pray

Pilgrims at the place where Jesus taught the disciples to pray

Even before the Apostles asked the Lord to teach them to pray, He had revealed to them something important about prayer; to go off to a certain place. We can pray anywhere, and we should pray everywhere and always, however it is important to have a special place and a special time dedicated to being in communion with God. This is how we enter into a personal relationship with God so that we can discover more about who He is and who we are in relationship with Him.

The very first thing we should pray for is Fear of the Lord, which is a gift of the Holy Spirit. In Psalm 111 we are told, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” This is not a cowering fear, but a realization that God who is Almighty has created each one of us personally out of love and it is possible for us to offend Him deeply by choosing to sin.

OUR FATHER

This brings us to the prayer that Jesus himself teaches us to pray. We all pray the Lord’s Prayer everyday, but do we really think about what we are saying? We are to say, “Our Father,” which implies the relationship He wants us to develop with Him as a community. He wants us to approach Him with every need and concern, even as a young child would approach its parent. Jesus wants us to approach his Father even as he himself approaches his Father.

HALLOWED BE THY NAME

And when we do, we say, “…hallowed be thy name.” In this first petition we are praying that all humanity will come to recognize the goodness and the greatness of Almighty God and we should remember the Greatest Commandment, “We must love the Lord Our God with all our mind, heart, soul and strength.” When God is first in our lives we will have a desire to do His will and we will want to give Him praise and glory.

THY KINGDOM COME

It is the will of God that His Kingdom come now. When Jesus sent his disciples out in pairs, he told them to proclaim, “The kingdom of God is at hand” (Lk 10:9). Jesus also said, “whereever two or more are gathered in my name, there I am in their midst.” Jesus promises that he will be present whereever people believe in him and whereever he is, the kingdom of God is present. When we pray “Thy Kingdom come,” we are praying for our own conversion and the conversion of the whole world because the Kingdom of God is nothing less than that. It is not only about eternal happiness in heaven, but about experiencing the presence of God in our lives right now.

GIVE US THIS DAY…

When we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” we are asking for God’s providence. We realize we have many needs that only God can satisfy. In another place in Scripture Jesus says, “Do not worry about life, what you will eat or drink or use for clothing” (Mt 6:25). All these things are necessary, but they are secondary to placing our total trust in God. He is the only one who can free us from our worries. Another reality is, he provides for us our daily bread in the Holy Eucharist. He loves us so much that he gives us himself in this Holy Sacrament. The most important thing we can do is to develop a deep faith in the true and real presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist. If we truly believe in his presence, he will give us the help and strength we need when we receive him, sometimes in a miraculous way. If we truly believe in the Holy Eucharist, the Holy Mass will be the center of our lives because it is a profound encounter with Christ in Word and Sacrament. And we will want to spend time with Him in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel.

FORGIVE US OUR SINS

When we pray, “Forgive us our sins,” we admit we have offended God and offended others. Immediately after, we say “…as we forgive those who trespass against us.” We will be forgiven by God as we forgive others. This is not a casual statement. Forgiveness is essential for our own freedom; for our psychological and spiritual development. Unforgiveness is destructive and it is so natural for us. We enjoy holding grudges, which lead to bitterness, resentment and eventually hatred. Unforgiveness ruins lives and causes chaos. Even Peter didn’t grasp the importance of forgiveness when he asked the Lord how often he must forgive. He thought he was being generous when he was willing to forgive seven times. The Lord said seventy times seven as the number of times we should forgive, meaning always. Yes, we should pursue justice — especially if there was a crime committed — but somewhere along the way we must forgive every hurt we experience, even if we have not received justice.  If you can’t forgive someone, say, “Lord you know I can’t forgive this person, and I know that you want me to for my own good. Please give me the grace to do this for you and for me and for the good of the Church.”

LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION

We are asking for the grace to deal with temptation in a right way.  A Scripture commentary mentions there are three levels of temptation. The first level is similar to Christ’s temptation in the desert: we recognize the temptation and immediately dismiss it and avoid sin. The second level is when we begin to entertain the temptation, or when we voluntarily put ourselves in a place or situation that we know may lead to sin. Even though we have not yet given consent, we have compromised our conscience and there is some sinfulness. The third level is when we give consent and this is always sinful. This is why the Sacrament of Reconciliation is so important: not only are our sins forgiven, but we receive grace to help us to recognize and overcome sin. The more often we go to confession, the more aware we are of our weaknesses.

The Lord’s prayer is so important that the Church uses it in every liturgical gathering; every time we come to together to pray. If we pray this prayer from our heart, embracing every aspect it presents, it will help us to deepen our spiritual life.

The only prayer that isn’t answered is the one we give up on. If we persevere, the prayer will either be answered as we hoped, or we will understand it is being answered in a different way. The Lord wants us to persevere in prayer, praying everyday throughout the day for our needs and the needs of others because this prayer helps us to develop a relationship with Him – He who is our Heavenly Father.

If we continue to ask, seek and knock He promises to send the Holy Spirit to us, so that we may have what we need, moment by moment.

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