Emmitsburg Council of Churches

Our Father: The Greatest Prayer

Father John J. Lombardi

When you are praying, do you actually know what you are saying?

The Our Father: This is the most magnificent prayer ever prayed because it is taught by God Himself-Jesus Christ-in answer to His Disciples' question ( ) of how to pray, and to help us to Heaven and holiness.

In the readings this Sunday, The Lesson is Perseverance:-The Lord Jesus teaches us to ask, seek and believe (Lk. 11:1-13 ). In the first reading (Gn. 18:20-32) Abraham pleads to God-Yaweh to save Sodom and Gomorrah from destruction: and thru Abraham's pleading God's wrath goes receding-the cities are not destroyed! Lesson: amidst both our distractions heart and mind, and of and desires for more internal stimulation (mystical visions, consolations of others or of God) never give up-persevere in prayer. And: pray for others just as Abraham did and Jesus Christ Himself does continuously-that is one of our main "jobs" as Catholics-to pray for others in intercession. This is a kinda 'sacred triangulation" whereby we connect-mystically, God, intercessor (you), and needy person. You may think of the drink, "G.I.N."-standing for God, Intecessor and Needy person, and as you connect to God thru loving prayer, send graces received to the needy person; and, likewise, as you receive requests for prayer or help from a needy person, connect them, your intercession to God! This 'sacred triangle" becomes, actually, a "circle of loving interchange" and mystical unity.

So pray The Prayer--The Our Father-- with your heart; don't rush thru it-image and allow the sacred words to go thru your heart and then out your lips. Don't just say the prayer or "mouth the words". Pray them. Meditate over the Words.

So, now, some reflections on The Prayer (in it's "full form" in St Mt. 6: 9-13)…

Our Father: He is Father not only to you, the individual, but to all of us children, thus the our in "Our Father". He is Father-Person, a real providential provider. And although the First Person of the Blessed Trinity-the Father-is pure Spirit, and more unlike us than like us mortals, Jesus calls Him "Father": a Father-man is active-going out to the other, initatiroy; begetting and virile-strong, and directive and giving-as well as Being loving and compassionate. His Nature is to beget and direct, give and bestow, kinda like an earthly man is, does. Trust in this Holy Begetting Father for strength and love which He holds together in Himself perfectly, unlike, sometimes, men, males fail to do, and, meanwhile, other men do, and are successfully! You may think of Jesus Himself as an image of the Father (as He says: "He who has seen Me has seen the Father"- )and kinda like Pope John Paul II who was both strong and loving at the same time.

Who art in Heaven: His "proper abode" from which He guides us and which we hope to enjoy one day. Heaven is, thankfully, above and "different" from Earth: it is a Blissful Realm-"above it all"-thank God! We may, alternatively, seek "mini-heavens" on Earth in "McMansions" and plasma tv's and man-made kingdoms, but there is only one Heaven which He created for us to be eternally happy in-forever.

Hallowed be Thy Name: His Name is holy (which means, literally, "set apart") and we should never take His Name in vain or say it pedestrianly, as a "slight of speech". Most every other word in our language is "usual" and so we should say His Name from our heart-heartfelt.

Thy Kingdom come: not our earthly pursuits of political or cultural "kingdoms", but, rather, His unending Kingdom with Him as King and Lord. The Kingdom is outside us, and above, but it is also "within us, too (Lk. 17:24), whenour human heart is united with Him in love and awareness of His Divine Presence and Kingship. The Kingdom of God is here present, but not fully yet realized.

Thy Will be done: we must seek, embrace and then DO the Will of God-what He wants for us and others-to pray, believe and help others. "Just do it" is a slogan-we need not overly, excessively analyze and get into a "paralysis of analysis" syndrome and hinder His Divine Will.

On Earth as it is in Heaven: as above so below-mirror Heaven and bliss by doing His will. Our earthly actions should imitate heavenly ones.

Give us this day our daily bread: Bread, according toour Catholic heritage, the "bread" is "three-fold": bread to eat for sustenance for body; the bread which is the Bible and Word of God; and the super-essential Bread of the Holy Eucharist to feed our souls. So, ask politely for "this Bread" and remember the many millions of people and children who starve, or who eat merely rice and beans while some fret over lean cuisine.

Forgive us our trespasses: we are all sinners and need God's Divine Mercy-so daily ask Him to forgive you as He is the Source of all mercy and desires your salvation. Think of Jesus' Parable of the Prodigal Son and the rich mercy of the Prodigal Father awaiting, and then running out for his return. Focus on His mercy and ask forgiveness.

As we forgive those who trespass against us: we must-willingly, even joyously--extend that forgiveness we ourselves have received to others. Are you merciful or merciless?

And lead us not into temptation: in other words, "do not let us be led into temptation"-to lust, avaricious seeking of possessions, food, bad relationships, earthly riches. Ask the Heavenly Father to prevent you from these temptations and avoid near occasions of sin.

But deliver us from evil: evil=wantingly doing serious harm upon God or others. We cannot always know we will do good, especially as situations and life changes-we are unstable creatures and need to rely on God's Grace to assist us: ask Him to lasso you back from sin and evil…

The "Our Father" is, further, a perfect prayer because it embodies the "A.C.T.S. acronym of Prayer": Adoration=as in "Hallowed be Thy Name" and really meaning that we adore Him; Contrition=seeking forgiveness for our sins and admitting we need God to forgive us and others; Thanksgiving=thanking God for being God!; Supplication=asking for "bread" in so many ways-for ourselves and others.

Remember: our prayers-esp the Our Father-are meant to bring us into a loving, heartfelt relationship with God. So, "master" this prayer thru combining the heart-passions and mind-intellect in holy integration as you say and pray The Prayer!

So, daily embrace The Miracle of the Indwelling God within you: behold and image Him, God within, shutting out all other images, realize and know He loves and longs for this Act of yours, of desirous prayer and Union, join with and embrace Him, and receive His undulating, spiraling, uncreated Love all thru your body and soul, for He wants to join what has been separated, thru your quiet, persevering reception of Him. Make "this act" throughout the day frequently for God Loves you and wants perfect Union with you-and others! Recall what St Augustine said :"God is more intimate to me than I am to myself." Internalize and realize this.

What are some other lessons of Prayer? Here's a "Top Ten List" of Prayer for you to consider…

  1. Pray more, more deeply-recollect yourself in God's Presence thru the day.
  2. Remember - prayer is conversation w/ God: talk to Him as your Best Friend, your Divine Friend.
  3. And also remember: You Have 2 ears and only one month- listen more than speaking when in conversation with, prayer to God! Learn the sacred art of holy stillness and silence. It will be fruitful.
  4. Stop the "CBS" -the "conveyor belt syndrome", of always wanting more-stimulation in prayer and in your life which fuels it-people, possessions, a chattering mind, etc. Change any part of your obsessive personality to: "Don't just do something, sit there" --at the Feet and Presence of the Lord -like the Virgin Mary
  5. Pray a Family Rosary once a month- and/or pray a decade together each day.
  6. In prayer don't tell God what to do like Martha (Lk. 10: ) ask Him kindly and seek to know His Divine Will and what He wants you to do, have. God's the Director, not you, so conform to His Will.
  7. Pray over the Bible, the Gospel Reading for Sunday Mass and "diet on the Lord's Word" for you.
  8. Occasionally make a Holy Hour: Remember - He is there in the Holy Eucharist of your church awaiting an audience with you. May the sacred Heart of Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament be praised, adored and loved, in all the Tabernacles of the world, even until the end of time!
  9. Amidst the distractions of your head and heart simply remember to cultivate attractions to Him: persevere!
  10. And give away the fruits of your prayer---love, joy and peace to others, like the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi