Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Our Father

Prayers of the Rosary

OK,so the Our Father is a prayer of more than the Rosary, but it is foundational to the Rosary as well.  Most people are familiar with this prayer, but here are the words:
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,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. Amen.
This is the prayer that Jesus gave us, and He said "This is how you pray:" in Matthew Chapter 6, and then followed with this beautiful prayer.  So, if the Son of God says This is how you pray, then it seems appropriate to pray this way, and that there must be real meat in this prayer.

As Jesus gave us this prayer, and He is the Son of the Father of the prayer, then the depth of His relationship with His Father must be evident and their unity must be as well.  Further the prayer must be much deeper than our frail human minds can totally grasp. So, a lifetime of meditation might not be sufficient to plumb its depths, because no matter how deep we dig, we are the clay and He is the potter.

But let us look at this beautiful prayer and see if scratching the surface gives us any insights.

We know that God the Father is the Father of Jesus, but Jesus told us to pray "Our Father".  How easily we gloss over this call to relationship.  I had a great earthly father, and I loved him, and knew that he loved me.  But, he was just a type of Our Father, and can't hold a candle to Our heavenly Father.  Imagine what the best father in the world, the king of Father's Day would be like.  Multiply that by a million, and you have not yet scratched the surface of Our Father, the father of everyone.

OK, but He's in heaven like "who art in heaven."  But Jesus said the kingdom of heaven is at hand.  I don't begin to grasp where heaven is, or even if heaven is a where.  But if it is at hand, it must be close by.  Then again Jesus told us in John 14:23 that He and the Father would dwell with us if we follow the commandments.  That's got to make the kingdom of heaven pretty close.

And what does "Hallowed be Thy Name" mean.  We probably have heard the kid version of the prayer where the child says "Harold be Thy Name".  Well hallowed is a little deeper than a human name.  It means made or set apart as holy, respected or honoured greatly, revered.  So, the greatness of Our Father is brought out in this phrase.

Let me split the next bit up a bit: "Thy kingdom come. . . on earth as it is in heaven,"  and "Thy will be done . . . on earth as it is in heaven."  Why did Jesus link the coming of the kingdom and the Father's will being done together?  If God's people do His will, then the kingdom of heaven which is at hand will then be in hand.  Easy words to say; not so easy to do.

"Thy will be done".  Jesus used those same words in the Garden of Gethsemane, and then his tears fell like drops of blood.  Then, he suffered and died an ignominious death on a Cross to set us free from sin and death.  How's that for Thy will being done?  We are not all called to die on a cross, but we are all called to die daily to the sinful tendencies and temptations that come our way, and we are all called to see Jesus in our brothers and sisters, and to know that all mankind are our brothers and sisters.

"Give us this day our daily bread."  Daily bread may not include that shiny Porsche, Gucci bag, Expensive motor home, or other bauble.  It means only what we need for today, not what we want for our ongoing perceived security.  If we have more than we need for today, we are called to be stewards of it, and to share it with our brothers and sisters, as our formed conscience guides us, and as we see needs in front of our faces.  It is not sufficient to say to the beggar: "I'll pray for you.  Have a nice day." 

The next sentence is connective " And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us."  If we have more than our daily bread and fail to share it, then we trespass against our brother, and if our brother does not share from his abundance with us, then he has trespassed against us.  But Jesus calls us not to be harsh even in this.  Rather he calls us to forgive our brother who has hurt us by his action or his inaction, and not to judge him, so that then we may be forgiven for our own sins against him or others.    The human condition is that of a sinaholic.  We are addicted to sinning, all of us.  Our holiness and call to holiness can never make us truly and totally holy as Our Father is.  Hence the call to forgiveness, so that we too can be forgiven.

Ah, and the penultimate statement: "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."God does not lead us into temptation, so it seems odd that we would pray that He not do what He does not do.  But, we need to be reminded that God does not lead us into temptation, that it is the desires of our body, and our imperfect hearts that lead us into temptation.  But, what He does do is "deliver us from evil."  The problem with delivering us from evil, is that we miss most of the times that He does it, and so we are ingrates, thanking Him periodically for something that has caught our eye, while missing so many of the big ones that He does in his majesty and power.

And then the prayer concludes with "Amen."  It is so. I believe.  There is nothing more to say.

We say this wonderful prayer 6 times in the rosary, once at the beginning, and to commence each decade.  It is a constant reminder that God the Father is the center of the universe.

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