The following meditations are based on several sources, but most especially on the writings of Bishop Richard Challoner, to whom we are indebted for the most reliable translation of the Douay-Rheims Bible. Bishop Challoner wrote many other works of apologetics. His tract on “The Lord’s Prayer and the Angelic Salutation” can be downloaded free from www.archive.org.
Our Lord taught us to pray the Our Father and therefore it is essential that we understand its meaning; yet most of us, lulled by the familiarity of constant use, pass over its spiritual treasures without fully giving the necessary assent of our will. Let’s try to unpack the meaning of those simple, familiar words we recite so often each day so that we can pray them better.
First, as Bishop Challoner said, the Son of God Himself taught us to call God “Our Father”. What greater honor can we aspire to than to be welcomed by God Himself to be His children? He Who made this earth and fills the immeasurable Heavens above us with His splendor and majesty calls us His children! We are God’s beloved children and Christ Himself teaches us to raise our hearts in daily prayer to His—and our!—loving Father. And so we begin our prayer.
“Hallowed be Thy name.” This petition holds first place among the seven short petitions that comprise the Our Father. Bishop Challoner tells us that, as His children, our first and principle duty is to love God with our whole heart and soul and that thus it follows that the principal thing we should desire and pray for is the great honor and glory of God. As children of God we realize His immense sorrow seeing that His Word is despised, denied and ignored by so many, especially by the children He has most favored Christians, who are given every grace and yet still deny or pervert His truths.
We ourselves have sadly often denied Him, or passed over insults to Him in the name of tolerance. In the face of so much sin the remedy is to petition God Our Father to glorify His most sacred name in us, by teaching us to love, serve and glorify Him. With the petition, “Hallowed be Thy name”, we are expressing our deepest longing for God to be hallowed within us, in our very deepest being, desiring that in all souls, in all creation, God’s grandeur and glory be adored. If God is not hallowed in us, we can never accomplish anything of value.
“Thy Kingdom come.” God’s kingdom is threefold: in Heaven, in His Mystical Body the Church, and within us and so this petition carries an act of profound hope that God’s will is done, for in this is our only hope of salvation. In these times of chaos, confusion and error in our Church and in the world, by this petition we are praying for the end of the reign of Satan and sin, that all who are in error be enlightened by the True Light, and that heresies, abuses and scandals may be abolished and that the Church, Christ’s Mystical Body may be restored, victorious over all the world. How shall this be? By first establishing in ourselves the kingdom of God. By this petition, we pray that Our Heavenly Father take full possession of our souls by His grace and reign in us, in all our thoughts, words and actions.
“Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” This petition is a sublime act of love, in that we totally surrender our will to God’s will. This prayer is so important that we find it repeated in the Gospels. First, at the Annunciation, “Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word.” (Luke 1, 38) On the night before He was betrayed, Our Lord spoke to His disciples, “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them; he it is that loveth Me. And he that loveth Me, shall be loved by My Father and I will love him and manifest Myself to him” (John 14, 21) And then, during His agony in the Garden of Olives, Luke quotes Jesus, “Saying: Father, if Thou wilt, remove this chalice from Me: but yet not My will, but Thine be done.” (Luke 22, 42) In these three instances, both Jesus and His Mother proclaimed the importance of this prayer by their actions. The angels and saints in Heaven joyously, gloriously accept God’s will, but while we remain on earth, acceptance of God’s will is a never-ending struggle for us. Even as we struggle, we pray, “Thy will be done” because we know that only when we are firmly in God’s will can we be safe from the evils that surround us.
So often we applaud this or that person, widely acclaimed as a great spiritual leader, only to find that they failed miserably, giving scandal to so many. Aware that we would likely fall to the same fate, were we tempted as they, we earnestly pray to Our Father to work His will in us, weak and needy as we are. This petition restates succinctly our Christian duty of perfect conformity to God’s will in all things. As Our Lord’s Litany of Love stressed, “If any one love Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and will make Our abode with him.”(John 14, 23) Therefore this prayer, “Thy will be done” should be our constant prayer as we seek ever more closely to correspond with God’s will in all things.
“Give us this day our daily bread.” Most people regard this as a petition to Our Father to provide for our needs; and an act of trust in God to care for us as His children. It is that, certainly, but to us it is so much more. Think of it! “I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread that I will give, is my flesh, for the life of the world. The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying: How can this man give us His flesh to eat? Then Jesus said to them: Amen, amen I say unto you: Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, you shall not have life in you. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day“. (John 6, 51-54) So, each time we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread”, we are making a spiritual communion and renewing our firm belief in the Holy Eucharist! Always remember this and never say these words inattentively, never gloss over them, for they are a powerful prayer that Our Father give us His Son, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity to abide with us and we in Him, in preparation for our joyful union with Him for all eternity.
“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Notice that in this, the fifth petition, Our Lord ties our forgiveness to the measure of forgiveness we extend to others. With what measure you measure, it shall be given to you. (Matt. 7, 2) If only we could keep always our sins before us to remind us that we are all great sinners, seeking God’s mercy, we should not be so quick to judge others, so reluctant to let go of grudges. This petition, when prayed fervently, obtains the remission of those daily venial sins that tend to drag us in the direction of greater sin. Our petty faults are often shrugged off, but they combine over time to inure us to sin and greatly interfere with the work of God’s grace in us. As we pray this petition, we must be mindful that each of our faults and “little sins” is a sharp thorn, piercing our sweet Savior’s Sacred Heart. You realize the need for a good examination of conscience at your evening prayers, but it is very helpful to add a sincere Our Father, with emphasis on this petition, each time we are aware of yet another venial sin. Add to this the sincere and heartfelt forgiveness of others and you will see a renewed peace and love blossom in your life. Do you find it hard to forgive others? Pray the Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be for someone you still hold in resentment. If you pray for that person, asking God to bless them, your anger and resentment will dissipate. It cannot be otherwise for we have the solemn promise of Christ Himself, related in “Love’s Litany”. (John 15, 7-10)
“Lead us not into temptation.” In the Epistle of St. James, (James 1, 13) we are told that “God is not a tempter of evils”. And so we know that God does not tempt us, but here we pray that God will not lead us into temptation. Thus, we are begging our Heavenly Father to help us avoid the temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil. “For all that is in the world, is the concupiscence of the flesh, and the concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life, which is not of the Father, but is of the world.” (John 1, 16) Therefore, by this petition we signify our total dependence upon God and beg Him to have mercy on our weakness. By this petition, we arm ourselves for this daily battle, with humble distrust of ourselves but with firm confidence in God. Each time we successfully fend off a temptation with God’s assistance, we gain grace and give glory to God our Father.
“Deliver us from evil.” Only God can deliver us from evil. The only evil in this world is sin, although the evil spirit of these times using the corrupt media proclaims loudly and constantly that illness, disability, poverty, aging and even life itself are “evils” to be overcome, usually by surrendering to the truly sinful rulers of this world. This petition affirms that God is our only remedy for true evil, and we close our prayer the Our Father, by begging Him to preserve us from evil. The ultimate evil is to die in our sins, refusing God’s merciful love. We never know when our life may be required from us, and so we pray, “Deliver us from evil”, trusting the infinite mercy of Our Father to keep us safely with Him for always. “I will rejoice under the covert of Thy wings.” (Psalms 62, 8)
Remember, pray the Rosary and confound the devil!
~ by evensong for love of the Immaculate Heart of Mary
Vouchsafe that I may praise thee, O Sacred Virgin, give me strength against thine enemies!