Rethink the Prayer God Gave You: Three Invitations to the “Our Father,” Part 1

our_father_1The “Our Father,” or “The Lord’s Prayer,” stands without peer among the prayers found in Sacred Scripture.

St. Augustine said, “Run through all the words of the holy prayers [in Scripture], and I do not think that you will find anything in them that is not contained and included in the Lord’s Prayer.”

There is probably no prayer more widely known than the Our Father. It’s the “go-to” prayer of most Catholics. Like a well-worn and favorite piece of clothing, we can wrap ourselves in the comfort of this prayer during times of difficulty, uncertainty or grief.

Sadly, that familiarity can sometimes breed contempt. (Tweet this.)

We often rattle off the Our Father without even thinking about the words we are saying. So it’s wise to regularly check-in with this powerful prayer to renew our appreciation of it.

And because of it’s divine origin, it is inexhaustible in how it can speak to us. In fact, the Catechism dedicates over 100 paragraphs to unfolding it’s beauty (Catechism, Nos. 2759-2865). In the next two posts, I’m going to propose three “invitations” of the Our Father prayer.

#1: The Invitation to Purification

purificationThis is not a purification from sin (that comes later in petition #5), but rather a purification of our heart from any obstacles to experiencing the full measure of the Father’s love for us.

It “has to do with paternal or maternal images, stemming from our personal and cultural history, and influencing our relationship with God. God our Father transcends the categories of the created world. To impose our own ideas in this area ‘upon him’ would be to fabricate idols to adore or pull down. To pray to the Father is to enter into his mystery as he is and as the Son has revealed him to us” (Catechism, No. 2779).

For example, if early in your life someone carved out an image of God for you, that portrays him as a cosmic Santa Claus keeping a list of all your good deeds and bad, or a capricious god who cannot be trusted, then that is an idol.

Tear Down Your Idols

The Church implores us to pull it down, get rid of it, because that is not the Father revealed by Jesus Christ. So, before we even speak a syllable of the Lord’s Prayer we need to ask the Lord to cleanse us of these interior obstacles to his love. I put this intention in a very simple prayer,

“Father, you know my life. For much of my life, I saw you as a distant deity ready to judge me for being an imperfect son. Help me, by your grace, to tear down that idol and behind it find you waiting for me with the loving arms of a Father. Through Christ, in the Spirit. Amen.”

In the next post, we will explore the Invitation to Filiation and the Invitation to Imitation.


Now over to you:

What are your reflections on the Our Father in your life, and on this first “invitation”?

Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith is the co-author of Revelation: The Kingdom Yet to Come and The Prophets: Messengers of God’s Mercy. He is an international presenter for The Great Adventure Bible Timeline. Bringing a wealth of experience and insight on the Word of God to audiences across the U.S., Thomas is a repeat guest on EWTN and Catholic radio as well as a sought after parish mission and conference speaker. Thomas Smith has taught as an adjunct professor at the St. Francis School of Theology in Denver, and is the former Director of the Denver Catholic Biblical School and the Denver Catechetical School. He lives on his family ranch in southeastern Idaho and writes for his website www.gen215.org.

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  • Bobby

    amen

  • Avila

    Agree that this wonderful prayer gifted to us from Jesus. My experience is that it is rarely prayed in mass, it is gabbled or rattled off in the great race to be the first to get the response or prayer over with. When I attended an Evangelical wedding some years ago, the Our Father was prayed fervently, reverently and thoughtfully as one community. It was so beautiful and I felt sad that we seem to have lost the ability to pray as a community, especially during the Holy Mass.

  • Therese

    Our Father, our loving Father… Remembering fearfulness and shame from childhood, sins weighing down a young heart. So thankful for the direction the Church took after Vatican II, the loving Father who yes must punish, but willing to love endlessly and long for us to be united with Him in love. Daily we give thanks and with His help try to stay on the road that leads to Him.

  • Gloria Holstrom

    I HAVE ALWAYS LOVED THE “OUR FATHER” & BEEN DISTURBED WHEN IT IS JUST RATTLED OFF. SOME YEARS AGO WHEN I WAS HAVING DIFFICULTY DEALING WITH AN HEALTH ISSUE, GOD LED ME TO FAST & MEDITATE ON THE PRAYER OF ALL PRAYERS FOR THE ENTIRE WEEKEND. WORDS CANNOT CONVEY THE SENSE OF PEACE THAT BEGAN TO SATURATE MY WHOLE BEING. AT THE END OF THE WEEKEND I REALIZED I HAD SPENT THE LAST TWO HOURS SLOWLY REPEATING “THY WILL BE DONE. THY WILL BE DONE.” WHEN I FINALLY REALIZED WHAT I WAS SAYING, I KNEW I HAD MY ANSWER–GOD WORKS ALL THINGS FOR GOOD SO SINCE THAT WONDERFUL DAY WHEN I FELT IN MY SOUL THE LIBERATION & PROTECTION OF THAT TINY BUT POWERFUL PHRASE, I NOT ONLY KNOW INTELLECTUALLY BUT KNOW DEEP IN MY HEART & SOUL THAT WE ARE SO SAFE IN OUR FATHER’ S LOVING HAND.

  • pnkyB4brain

    I am so like other people that rattle off the prayers without thinking of the meaning behind the words. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.
    So, I thought about what I am saying to God using the prayer ‘Our Father’ and I didn’t get too far. I was amazed with the words, “OUR FATHER”. Those words alone are so powerful! He is our Parent, our Confidant, our Adviser, regardless of our age, and our dearest Friend. God is our world and without Him, we would not exist! He is OUR FATHER.

    • Thomas Smith

      Yes! I think Theresa of Avila is famous for saying she never got past the first two words in her meditation in this prayer.

  • Elizabeth Robinson

    Of all the religions, Christianity is the only one to address the Eternal as Father….or more intimately, as “Abba,” that is, “Daddy” or “Papa.” It is made possible only through our adoption into God’s family through His only begotten son, Jesus Christ. Many times you will hear that “we are all God’s children.” But it is not so. We are God’s creation, made in His image and likeness, and we all possess infinite worth and dignity on that fact alone. But sonship comes only through the Son. This is a staggering privilege, and with it comes equally staggering responsibility. Earthly fathers image the heavenly one, and the daily task of ensuring that the image is a true one, of tenderness and strength, of wisdom and humor and kindness and authority well used, is too great for any man to bear absent the Grace of God. Thus God said “It is not good that the man should be alone!” and made a helper, fit for him, to share that immense task. That’s why we have two parents and why they cannot be of the same sex. Male and female, father and mother, He created us, because it takes both to do the job right.

    • Thomas Smith

      There are actually two places in Isaiah where God is addressed as Our Father and he’s called a Father to Israel many times. Even today, one of the most well known Jewish prayers prayed especially around the Day of Atonement is Avinu Malkeinu (Our Father and our King). But you are right, it is Jesus who draws us into true union and communion with his Father, giving us the power to become the children of God (Jn 1:12), so our confession of God’s fatherhood ceased to be simply a metaphor and transforms into a metaphysical reality in Christ by the Spirit.