The Lord’s Prayer
One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he had finished, one of the disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples to pray.”
The Our Father is one of many examples of Jesus’ way of praying as seen in the gospels. The Lord’s Prayer is unique in that here we find a synthesis of Jesus’ attitude toward his own prayer as well as some of his major teachings.
- Because we pray the words so often, we forget what it is asking, for it is the most revolutionary change we can imagine in the world we live in. (As it was when Jesus was praying for in his own time and world.)
- The Our Father is not easy because it requires a life change, calling us to become a different sort of people, acknowledging that this will only occur when we learn to depend freely and lovingly on the God whom Jesus taught us to address as Our Father.
- Every line is radical because it challenges our assumptions about who we are and who God is and what the world is like and can become.
- Pope Benedict XVI (Life of Jesus of Nazareth) suggests that the word “Our” requires us to step out of the closed circle of “I.” It requires that we surrender to the community of humanity. The Pope goes on to affirm that when we say “Our”, we say “Yes” to the living church in which the Lord wanted to gather a new people.
- The Our Father presents a reality where what God desires can happen, where all the hungry are fed, where forgiveness is the core in all relationships and aims to form our being to accord with the inner attitudes of Jesus.
It is customary for prominent masters to recite brief prayers of their own, in addition to the regular Jewish prayers of the day. The disciple in Luke asks Jesus to teach them prayer as John the Baptist did for his followers. Jesus, formed in Jewish spirituality, selects a number of formulas in use: the use of petitions, the call to God in heaven, the requests for food and forgiveness and protection in daily life. In fact, it is evident that the first part of the Our Father is based on the Quaddish prayer from the Synagogue service at the time of Jesus:
“Magnified and sanctified be his great name, Amen. In the world which he has created according to his will. And may he establish his kingdom during your life and during your days and during the life of all the house of Israel, even speedily and at a near time. Amen.”
“Praying to our Father should develop in us the will to become like him and foster in us a humble and trusting heart.” (
Catechism of the Catholic Church
, #2800, part 4, Christian Prayer, section 2, Our Father.)
You can find additional information about the “Our Father” from the following material:
- Praying as Jesus Taught Us, by Carlo Maria Martini, (Rowan & Littlefield, 2001)
In a deeply personal book, the late Cardinal Carlo Martini helps us hear the ancient prayer of the Our Father again.
- Living the Lord’s Prayer: The Way of the Disciple, by Albert Haase, O.F.M. (IVP Books 2009)
Father Albert Haase follows the lines of this greatest of all prayers, showing how the ideas have been understood by great people of faith in the past and revealing how they are useful for our spiritual formation today. Contained in the Lord’s Prayer is a complete picture of our life with God. Including true stories and reflection questions for individual consideration or discussion with a spiritual director or small group, Living the Lord’s Prayer will teach you to live–rather than simply say–the Lord’s Prayer, and thereby to walk in the way of a true disciple.
- Our Father: Reflections on the Lord’s Prayer by Pope Francis (Image 2018)