WHY THE “OUR FATHER” IS CALLED THE LORD’S PRAYER
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ISA 55:10-11; MT 6:7-15 ]
Why do we call the “Our Father” the Lord’s Prayer? The simple answer is that it is formulated by the Lord and taught by Him. But this in itself cannot motivate us to pray the Lord’s Prayer meaningfully. As a result, we pray the Lord’s Prayer as a routine, without much conviction and fervor. We do not understand the full implications of why we call this prayer, the Lord’s Prayer.
When we say that this is the Lord’s Prayer, we mean that it is prayer prayed by the Lord Himself. To pray the Lord’s Prayer is to pray the same prayer that He prayed. And if this is the prayer of the Lord Himself, surely, when we pray the Lord’s Prayer, the Lord prays in and through us. Such prayer from the Lord will surely be heard by our Father.
More importantly, if we say it is the Lord’s Prayer, it means to say that this prayer expresses the whole life of Jesus, His mission and His identity, and His attitude towards God and life. In this prayer, Jesus expresses His devotion to His Father, that He would do everything for His greater glory. “Holy be your name” expresses His desire to glorify the Father by His life. “Your kingdom come. Your will be done” expresses His desire to serve the Lord by doing the Father’s will. The whole life of Jesus was to establish the kingdom of His Father. St John’s gospel has Jesus in His last prayer describing His mission on earth as glorifying the Father and making His name known and loved. This is expressed also in the psalm, “Glorify the Lord with me. Together let us praise his name. I sought the Lord and he answered me; from all my terrors he set me free.”
In praying for the daily bread, Jesus expresses His total trust in the providence of God. He did not ask for the bread of tomorrow because He trusted that His Father would provide, since God is His Father after all. Only because the Father has been faithful to Him, could He ask us to do the same and trust in His love. The psalmist expresses this trust when he prayed, “Look towards him and be radiant; let your faces not be abashed. This poor man called, the Lord heard him and rescued him from all his distress. They call and the Lord hears and rescues them in all their distress. The Lord is close to the broken-hearted; those whose spirit is crushed he will save.”
Why is the Lord’s Prayer so efficacious? Because it is the Lord Himself praying in and through us! The Power of the Word, as the first reading says, is always efficacious. “As the rain and the snow come down from the heavens and do not return without watering the earth, making it yield and giving growth to provide seed for the sower and bread for the eating, so the word that goes from my mouth does not return to me empty, without carrying out my will and succeeding in what it was sent to do.” Jesus as the Word of God makes this prayer even more efficacious. This prayer is thus most pleasing to the Father because when He hears the words of His Son, He is pleased with our prayers. Indeed, how happy we are when someone quotes our words to prove his point. As Catholics, we would often quote the Holy Father to substantiate what we want to say. So too, when we use the words of His Son, the Father is delighted to hear His Son speaking in and through us.
But for it to be efficacious, there are three conditions to be observed. It calls for total receptivity to His grace. This is expressed in the receptivity of His divine providence. We must be receptive to His will. We need to trust that His will is His wisdom. Submission to God’s will is to trust that He, as our Father, will do all that is good for us. In trusting Him, we will be able to allow the grace of God to work in and through us. Very often, because we resist His will for us, preferring to choose our own ways, we make a mess out of our lives and create more problems for ourselves.
Total receptivity to His Grace and divine providence means also to be receptive of His mercy. In asking for forgiveness, we are making ourselves available to the mercy of God in our lives. Unless we experience the mercy and forgiveness of God, we cannot forgive others. In refusing to forgive others, we block the channel of grace in our lives. God cannot bestow His blessings on us if our hearts are closed because of unforgiveness. That is why, in all His teaching, what features most prominently is the theme of forgiveness. “And forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven those who are in debt to us. And do not put us to the test, but save us from the evil one. Yes, if you forgive others their failings, your heavenly Father will forgive you yours; but if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive your failings either.” It is the key to the reception of all graces. So long as we bear grudges in our hearts, we cannot be free, or be happy or be capable of receiving His grace. Indeed, the psalmist says, “The Lord turns his face against the wicked to destroy their remembrance from the earth. The Lord turns his eyes to the just and his ears to their appeal.”
So if we want to pray the Lord’s Prayer and make His prayer our own, let us adopt the disposition of receptivity, docility to His grace, His will and seek to glorify Him in all we do and say. By so doing, His Prayer will become effective in our lives since His word will live in us and act in us.
Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved
Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
- Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
- Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
- It is more important to pray deeply, not read widely. The current reflections of the day would be more than sufficient for anyone who wants to pray deeply and be led into an intimacy with the Lord.
Note: You may share this reflection with someone. However, please note that reflections are not archived online, nor will they be available via email request.