The Lord's Prayer: it's about us
Petitions cover everything we really need
By Patricia Kasten
Compass Associate Editor
Second of two
"Thy Kingdom Come." We want it here and we want it now. We want to be closer to God.
The Lord's Prayer - the prayer taught by Jesus and used from the earliest days of the church - presents a two-way street of petitions, dealing with us and God. Last week, we looked at the first part of the prayer - which rightly addresses God first. The introduction of the Lord's Prayer and its first three petitions address God and our longing to be closer to "Our Father."
After expressing this desire to be closer to God - including the coming of the Kingdom - the prayer presents four petitions about ourselves. The first three petitions of the Lord's Prayer are sometimes called the "You" petitions, since they address God. The second part of the prayer is the "Us" petitions. They deal with our earthly needs: physical and emotional well-being.
But again, none of these four petitions is a private one - the prayer is not about me, but about us, as in Our Father.
Give Us this Day our Daily Bread. Nothing is more basic than food. Without it, we die. So this petition deals with physical survival. God knows, of course, that we need to eat. However, we need to remember that "all good things come from God" as St. Teresa of Avila prayed. The request for daily bread reminds us that God provided manna in the
desert - and only enough for one day - and that God continues to feed us, in various ways. And one of those is through God's very self: in the Eucharistic bread.
Forgive Us our Trespasses as We Forgive those Who Trespass Against Us. This petition is another two-way street. We ask for God's mercy - an unending need. But as we pray, we are - at the same time - asking forgiveness for others, since we say "our trespasses" and not "my trespasses." In fact, we are - as we ask for mercy - also promising to extend mercy those who sin against us. We say "as we forgive," not "after we forgive" or "and then we will forgive."
After these two petitions, when we are back in a healthy, well-fed relationship with God and others, we have to remember that we won't probably stay there. We'll need help. Again and again. So we pray for the future.
Lead Us not into Temptation. First of all, God doesn't tempt (see the Letter of James, 1:11), but we are tested in this life. Often. Since we have hearts susceptible to temptation, we can easily move away from God's presence. So we pray to avoid anything that would draw us away from God.
Deliver Us from Evil. There is definitely evil in the world. None of us escapes its touch. As the Catechism teaches, "In this final petition, the church brings before the Father all the distress of the world" (n. 2854). Often, we are like children huddled in the dark and cold. And yet we know that the dark has been scattered by the light of Christ, who has overcome the world and the cold of death and sin. When we are close to God, we can see that light, even in the darkest moments.
Finally, as we say Amen - which means "I believe" - we express our willingness to accept that the delivering Light of Christ reveals the Father's glory - and leads us into the Kingdom, both on earth and in heaven.
Light overcomes darkness. Bread overcomes hunger. Love heals and forgiveness mends. Good banishes evil.
And it all happens in the here and now of our hunger, darkness and need for forgiveness.
We just celebrated the Christmas season (which lingers in the church until Feb. 2). As we continue through the church year, what is more here and now than the presence of the Lord who taught us how to pray? Jesus, God With Us, knew about here and now needs - and about how God is ready to draw us into his Kingdom, here and now.
(Sources: The Catechism of the Catholic Church; The USCC office for the Catechism; The Summa Theologica; The Modern Catholic Encyclopedia)