The Perfect Prayer

Prayer is such an essential part of our faith walk.  Not only is this a necessary part of Christianity, but essentially all faiths require it of its followers.  Prayer can take many forms, and doesn’t necessarily require verbalization, even quietly to oneself.

As a Catholic Christian, I try to refer back to Jesus as my example of living and faith.  For that reason, I look to Him for how to pray.  Fortunately, he was specific about this.  Matthew chapter six spells out how Jesus taught us to pray, in what we now know as the Lord’s Prayer.  This is, in my mind, the perfect prayer, because is came from Jesus.  And, it is so rich.  Each part, each word, means so much.

Our Father…

This shows me the value of collective prayer.  “Our”, not “My”, means I’m not actually praying just for myself, but for all of us.  This comes through clearly throughout the prayer.  Referring to God as a Father helps me understand the nature of how he feels about me, about all of us.  I am a father, and the love I have for my children is the most unconditional and altruistic love I have ever experienced in my heart.  Projecting my imperfect fatherly love onto how God’s perfect love is for us helps me grasp the ungraspable.

Who Art in Heaven…

This tells me a lot about Heaven.  First, it tells me it is real.  It exists.  It also tells me it is filled with God.  It is his home, he resides there.

Hallowed be Thy Name…

We know honoring God’s name and not using it in vain is pretty important, because it is already one of the Ten Commandments from the old Jewish law.  Jesus reiterates this, by reminding us to keep the name of God holy.  What happens in our souls when we forget this?  It’s like a ship that loses its rudder, a traveler with no frame of reference by which to judge their position.  The Holiness of God is the framework from which all other values, all other choices, must stem.  And it’s not just his nature that must be revered, but even His name.  The names we use are important, our language matters, because it colors our judgments.

Thy Kingdom come…

So, not only does God live, and lives in Heaven, but he has a kingdom.  He is a King.  Every king has a kingdom, but not all kingdoms are of this time.  His Kingdom, then, must not always be present, at least in some places, as we are to ask for it to come about.

Thy Will be done, on Earth, as it is in Heaven…

This part really speaks to me.  Now, I see that God’s Will isn’t always done here.  When I was younger, I believed that everything that happened in this world was the direct result of God’s Hand.  That made it difficult to accept when tragedies happened, when children died in accidents or of cancer, when “bad things happened to good people”.  But how can an omnipotent God allow this?  Many a good Christian has had their faith shaken by this quandary.  This part of the Lord’s Prayer holds the answer for me.  I realize that God has turned this world over to other forces, largely ours, but also evil forces with potential for evil choices, because it is a necessary part of our free will.  We are to pray, and act, to bring about God’s Kingdom here, on Earth, in order to complete His Will for us, for mankind.  This is a tall task, but it is our charge.  The best news is that His Will is already done in Heaven, and that is our eternal home.  There is no room for evil in Heaven.  And, as a last point, notice we are to pray for His Will, not ours.  This can be difficult, for sometimes they are not the same.  We must trust that His Will is always what’s best for us, even when we can’t see it.

Give us this day our daily bread…

We are to work, but our work is to be directed at bringing about His Kingdom here on Earth.  As far as our needs, they will take care of themselves, through His Grace.  If our duties here are centered around ourselves, and serving our own needs, they become hollow and meaningless.  If, on the other hand, we trust The Lord to provide us with our needs of the day, and work to complete His Will with our actions, all the rest falls into place and we are blessed beyond our desires.

And forgive us our trespasses…

We need forgiveness.  We are all born broken, with original sin.  It doesn’t say to forgive us if we trespass, or to forgive those of us who do, it is assumed that we all need it.  And it tells us that all forgiveness comes from God.

As we forgive those who trespass against us…

Ah, here is the catch.  Just when we think the forgiveness is free for the asking, we realize we must do our part. No, it isn’t something we can earn, or buy. We are offered forgiveness freely, without restrictions, without merit. But we must also be able to accept that forgiveness. We can only accept forgiveness if we forgive others in our hearts. It doesn’t say we are forgiven only after we have forgiven others, or so that we can forgive others, but as we forgive others.  It tells me our being forgiven is directly connected to our forgiving. They are one and the same.

And lead us not into temptation…

This speaks volumes to me about our nature.  We are not to ask The Lord to help us resist temptation.  It is good to resist when temptation confronts us, and His help is invaluable. But we are weak, we are broken, and it is not realistic that we can withstand the temptations of Satan at every turn.  We are to use our heads and not put ourselves in situations where we can fall, and we are to ask The Lord’s help with this.

But deliver us from evil.

Here, we are reminded that evil is real.  Evil exists, just like God exists, and it can be avoided, with God’s help.  His assistance is required, and without Him, we are helplessly in the throughs of the evil one.

There is one last thing that makes this the perfect prayer for me.  This prayer, with few exceptions, is prayed in the same or very similar form by all Christians.  We all know Jesus prayed that ”we might all be one”.  When we pray this prayer, we are.




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