Fr. Ron Millican
THE PRAYER TO BEGIN ALL PRAYER: THE LORD’S PRAYER, 2
I mentioned in my column last week introducing this brief study of the Our Father that it may be a short prayer, but there is a lot going on in the prayer. I offer again this quote from the famous nineteenth-century Protestant preacher, Henry Ward Beecher: “…. There is no such thing as getting through it. If a man, in praying that prayer (the Our Father), were to be stopped by every word until he thoroughly prayed it, it would take him a lifetime.” A Puritan preacher, Samuel Chadwick, once commented: “Hurry is the death of prayer.”
The Our Father is like an army of ideas ready to overwhelm us, so we are wise to divide and conquer.
The Lord’s Prayer can be divided into two parts. The opening (“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name”) helps us to understand the setting of the prayer. The seven phrases after that are requests, sometimes called “the seven petitions.”
In this particular column I would like to look at the first word, “our.” By using this little pronoun, Jesus is trying to clear up a significant matter right off the bat.
You never pray alone. First, it is obvious that Jesus in offering this prayer to his disciples is offering something that he prayed himself. I have said it before that I find it inspiring that we pray the Lord’s Prayer soon after the consecration where we hold as Catholics that the bread and wine are now the very real Body and Blood of Jesus himself. When we pray the Our Father at that point we are praying it with Jesus himself. While God is uniquely Jesus’ Father, we are, through adoption, his brothers and sisters. Every time we pray the Our Father, Jesus is uttering the words with us. God is “our” Father too.
When we pray the Our Father we are also reminding ourselves that God is not just “my” Father but all of humanity’s Father. God does not belong to just one particular set of people, one religious group, but everyone’s Father. And we pray later in the prayer “Give us. “ The “us” is reminding me, as an individual praying the prayer that I am praying for all of humanity as well.
Finally, in praying the Our Father we recognize that we are not the only one praying this prayer. We are part of a community that is praying this prayer. Even when you pray this prayer alone, you are never really alone. Others are praying this prayer throughout the world with you.
God is not just “my” God; he is also “our” Father—the God and Father of all humanity.
The “our” in Our Father is inviting us not just to pray for a change of circumstance but a change in attitude or character: God is Father, and he is OUR Father.