As a child in religion class, our teacher once told us that we seemed to hurry through prayers as fast as we could. By memorizing and saying prayers by rote, she said that we were losing the essence of communication that is important in praying. "You should understand and mean what you are praying" she told us. "Slow down and mean the words you are saying….one prayer with feeling is more meaningful than 100 prayers of just repetition".
I also remember another teacher telling us it is important to understand what you are praying. She asked us all what the Lord’s Prayer was and most of us didn’t know what it was or why we said it; only that it was a popular prayer we all knew. She then explained the origin of the Lord’s Prayer:
During Jesus’ ministry, he prayed and instructed multitudes of people who followed Him from Galilee, Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judaea and beyond Jordan. Seeing the multitudes, Jesus went up into the mountain with his disciples and taught them the beatitudes. Matthew 7:29
Jesus then instructed the people on how to pray — ‘to go privately (into your closet or shut the door behind you) and pray to Our Father in secret, not like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly where everyone can see them. Your Father, who knows all secrets will reward you.’ Jesus taught that when you pray, don’t babble or use repetition of words because your Father, knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!
Jesus further instructed his followers, "Pray like this" and gave us the prayer we call "The Lord’s Prayer":
The Lord's Prayer
Our Father, which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth,
As it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive them that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,The power, and the glory, For ever and ever.
Our Father which art in heaven; When we pray to the Father, we are in communion with him and with his Son, Jesus Christ. It is a blessing of adoration for the glory of God that we should recognize him as "Father," the true God. We also acknowledge that we pray as children to Our Father, who dwells in heaven; and with Him as our Parent, we are in brotherhood with all brothers and sisters here on earth. Heaven does not mean a place, but a way of being; it does not mean that God is distant, but majestic.
Hallowed be thy name; We give him thanks for having revealed his name to us, for the gift of believing in it, and for the indwelling of his Presence in us, to recognize Him as holy, to treat His Name in a holy or hallowed way. Some call Him - God, Father, Yahweh, Jehovah, I Am.
Thy kingdom come; The Kingdom of God lies ahead of us. It is brought near in the Word incarnate (Jesus), it is proclaimed throughout the whole Gospel, and it has come in Christ’s death and Resurrection. The Kingdom of God has been coming since the Last Supper and, in the Eucharist, it is in our midst. The kingdom will come in glory when Christ hands it over to his Father. "The kingdom of God is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." The end-time in which we live is the age of the outpouring of the Spirit.
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven; Our Father desires "all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." He "is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish." His commandment is "that you love one another; even as I have loved you". This commandment summarizes all the others and expresses his entire will.
He has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ . . . to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of Him who accomplishes all things according to His counsel and Will. We ask for this loving plan to be fully realized on earth as it is already in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread: As His children, we look to and acknowledge the Father for our nourishment and survival. He gives to all the living "their food in due season." Jesus teaches us this petition, because it glorifies our Father by acknowledging how good he is, beyond all goodness. By praying for ‘us’, we are asking for all people; all humans’ needs. We are reminded that "Man does not live by bread alone, but . . . by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God," that is, by the Word he speaks and the Spirit he breathes forth." There is a famine on earth, "not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD." Amos 8:11
And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us: Although we are asking God to make us holy and recognize His Holiness, we are still sinners. In Jesus, we have redemption and forgiveness of sin. God’s mercy will not penetrate our hearts if we, in turn do not forgive others who hurt us. We cannot love the God we cannot see if we do not love the brother or sister we do see. In refusing to forgive our brothers and sisters, our hearts are closed and they are hardened to Our Father’s merciful love; but in confessing our sins, and forgiving others, our hearts are opened to His grace.
And lead us not into temptation: We are asking God not to allow us to take the path that leads to sin. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, so that you may be able to endure it."
But deliver us from evil: When we ask to be delivered from the Evil One, we pray as well to be freed from all evils, present, past, and future, of which he is the author or instigator. Along with deliverance from the evils that overwhelm humanity, we pray for the precious gift of peace.
"For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and forever" AMEN.
Deliver us, Lord, we beseech you, from every evil and grant us peace in our day, so that aided by your mercy we might be ever free from sin and protected from all anxiety, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
ref: The Bible; Catechism of the Catholic Church
Marie Coppola © Revised November 2012