Our Father Prayer, also known as the Lord’s Prayer, is undoubtedly the most well-known and beloved of all Catholic prayers. As Catholics, we learn it from early childhood, pray it at every Mass, and turn to its comforting words repeatedly throughout our lives. But what exactly are we praying for when we say Our Father?
In this guide, I aim to provide a line-by-line pastoral guide to this quintessential Christian prayer, exploring its rich biblical roots and profound theological meaning for the life of faith.
“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.“
“Our Father Who Art in Heaven”
We begin the Our Father by invoking God with this intimate address of “Our Father.” These opening words situate us as God’s children, reminding us that we pray to a heavenly Father who loves and cares for us. This greeting emphasizes the wonderful truth that through Christ, God relates to us not as a distant deity, but as a loving daddy.
The address “Who Art in Heaven” further highlights the transcendence, glory, and might of the eternal God who reigns over all creation. It points our hearts and minds toward the awe-inspiring majesty of the Almighty. Yet this lofty divine being cares intimately for each of his children here on earth.
“Hallowed Be Thy Name”
The first petition of the Our Father is “hallowed be thy name.” To hallow something means to treat it as holy, sacred, and set apart. Here we pray that God’s name would be honored as holy throughout all the earth and in our own lives. This petition calls to mind the third commandment, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain” (Exodus 20:7). It is a prayer that God’s name would be glorified by how we use it in worship, prayer, and praise.
“Thy Kingdom Come”
Next, we pray “thy kingdom come” – a prayer for the full establishment of God’s reign here on earth. How desperately our fallen, broken world needs the peace, justice, love, and salvation of Christ’s kingdom! When we utter these words, we are asking God to amplify and accelerate the fulfillment of his purposes, plans, and saving rule across the entire earth.
This petition also reminds us that God’s kingdom has already been inaugurated but not yet fully consummated. By faith we belong to Christ’s kingdom – but we await and hasten its complete manifestation at his Second Coming. Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!
“Thy Will Be Done on Earth as It Is in Heaven”
The third petition – “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” – fits hand-in-glove with “thy kingdom come.” We long for the perfect fulfillment of God’s intentions here, just as his will is flawlessly carried out by the angels and saints in heaven this very moment. As Jesus himself modeled in the Garden of Gethsemane, alignment of our own human will with God’s divine will should be the supreme aspiration of our lives.
When calamity, crisis, or suffering strike, how quickly we question the goodness of God’s will! This petition reminds us to entrust everything into the hands of our all-wise, all-loving Father. Though the path of his will may bring pain, in the long run it will also yield the greatest joy if we walk it in faith.
“Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread”
In this petition, we turn our attention from the cosmic to the concrete: “give us this day our daily bread.” Gospel living requires both visionary dreaming about the ultimate destiny of the world and practical concern with meeting basic human needs close at hand. Jesus models this balance throughout his ministry, as he preaches eloquently about God’s kingdom while also miraculously feeding the hungry crowds.
Here each one of us acknowledges our complete daily dependence upon God to sustain our most foundational requirements of food, water, shelter and clothing. Yet nested within this petition is also a call for divine provisions needed to nourish our souls: the supersubstantial bread of the Holy Eucharist, the living water of the Holy Spirit, and abiding nourishment of God’s Word.
“Forgive Us Our Trespasses as We Forgive Those Who Trespass Against Us”
In this profoundly wise petition, we request both divine mercy and the grace to extend mercy. All honest believers must acknowledge the myriad ways we “miss the mark” and require God’s gracious forgiveness. Simultaneously, our ongoing reception of this forgiveness is contingent upon our willingness to forgive others.
Jesus underlines this point in the Gospel of Matthew when he comments directly on this petition: “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15).
Extending mercy can be very difficult at times, especially when wounds run deep. But God knows this struggle intimately, which is why the Holy Spirit pours love into our hearts (cf. Romans 5:5) to empower our feeble attempts to forgive. And when we do forgive, we create space for healing of painful memories and reconciliation of broken relationships.
“Lead Us Not Into Temptation, But Deliver Us From Evil”
Our final petition captures the spiritual warfare raging around us: “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” On the frontlines of this invisible battle, we earnestly implore God’s protection and help so that we will not fall prey to the snares of the devil. We know that Satan desperately wants to woo us – and if necessary drag us – away from divine grace into the clutches of spiritual death.
Therefore, we must be vigilant about proximate occasions leading us into sin, ever mindful of our human weakness and fragility when faced with temptation’s formidable power. Our hope rests entirely in God, who will deliver us if we ask. Thus we close our hearts to Our Father as we began it—with childlike trust in our heavenly Father, who faithfully rescues his sons and daughters.
A Pastoral Guide Through Tumultuous Times
For two millennia, Our Father has led Christians through seasons of tranquility and times of tribulation. Today, amid the unique challenges of modern life, this prayer continues to orient us toward everything that ultimately matters: the glory of God’s name, the spread of Christ’s kingdom, conformity to God’s will, dependence on God’s provision, reception of God’s forgiveness, and deliverance from every evil.
May our frequent praying of the beautiful, ageless words Jesus himself taught us bear abundant fruit in our lives today. Our Father loves to bless his children when they cry out for his help, so let us pray with expectant faith!
Korean Community Church Of New Jersey