Last week I discussed the meaning of the introductory part of the Our Father prayer. This week we’re going to dive into the meaning of the second part of the prayer: the seven petitions.
As I stated last week, although the Our Father is quite possibly the most said prayer of all time, it is worthwhile to spend time contemplating the deeper meaning behind the words we are saying. This week we were going to spend time contemplating the meaning behind the seven petitions that we proclaim at the end of the prayer. The first three will focus outwards, directing us toward the Father, for His sake. The latter four act “as an offering up of our expectations, that draws down upon itself the eyes of the Father of mercies” (CCC 2805).
Petition 1: “Hallowed be thy name”
To understand this petition we must first understand what the meaning of the word hallowed is.
Hallowed: “to recognize as holy, to treat in a holy way” CCC 2807.
If you’re anything like me, you may have been confused why this is a “petition.” I always thought we were just affirming the reverence we show to God and acknowledging His holiness. Although this line contains those meanings, it contains something equally as interesting that is often overlooked: our petition to God that we may be more holy. How does this work? Through this petition we ask that we become more in awe of God’s glory and love and that we may fall deeper in love with Him. This deepening of our love for Him produced the fruit in holiness in our own heart.
Petition 2: “Thy Kingdom come”
This primary meaning behind this petition is the final coming of Christ. As a child making a petition for the “end of the world” seemed quite intimidating, but as I have grown in my faith I have come to understand the beauty of this. This petition is not a begging for the end, but a begging for the beginning: the beginning of eternity with Christ in heaven. Again, this can be scary, what if we’re not ready? Well friends, we best be getting ready. This petition emphasizes the importance of living in the present and being on mission here on earth. The kingdom on earth began at the last supper through the Eucharist and still carries on to this day. We are called to mission to further the kingdom’s dominion over the world such that more souls would be brought into the light of Christ’s love.
Petition 3: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”
This petition is a little more self-explanatory, but still worth examining in more depth. Initially, this petition displays our hearts desires to be in full union with Christ. This means aligning our will with His when it comes to our lives, our loved ones, and our materialistic desires. Now although we ask for unity of the heart, soul, mind, and body here, it doesn't mean that God is going to just grant us the grace to surrender our will to him. Rather, we may very well struggle and feel attached to our own will (it’s only human). Thankfully, Jesus gave us an example of what to do in situations where we feel tempted to cling onto our will over the Fathers.
“My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.” Matthew 26:39
You see, growth in holiness and union with the Father’s will does not necessarily mean we will forget all worldly desires and temptations. It is less about if we feel the draw to our own will and more about what we do in response. God works through peace. We must chase His desires, abandoning our will to His so that we can enter into communion with Him.
Petition 4: “give us this day our daily bread”
Jesus says “give us” and when he says that he makes an important clarification based on his word choice. By using us he is further emphasizing that we are children of God and that we look trustingly to the Father for everything. If you remember my emphasis on the word “our” last week, you may connect the dots here that when we say “us” we are also praying for all men as they are all God’s children through baptism. Now, the second half of this petition is a bit more complex. Bread in the physical nourishes and supplements our bodies. Likewise, here we are asking the Father for nourishment, both materialistic and spiritually. Another layer of meaning that “daily bread” holds is the Eucharist itself. This of which we have daily access to through Communion and Adoration.
Petition 5: “and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”
Petition number five is arguably the most complex petition of them all although it seems simple. Yes, we must forgive those around us, but this petition states that our own forgiveness is dependent on our ability to forgive those who have trespassed us. For we cannot truly love God in all His glory whom we cannot see, when we do not love the human life we do see in front of us. Friends, this petition is not just us pleading for forgiveness and the strength to forgive, but it is a petition that we may know the dignity of life and love the life in front of us.
Petition 6: “and lead us not into temptation”
Now I will admit, this line confused me for the greater part of my life until I did some research. How can God who is only good “lead us” into temptation? The translation of the Bible to english equated to the word lean, which doesn’t quite capture the entire meaning of the original text.
The original text says something closer to this, "do not allow us to enter into temptation" and "do not let us yield to temptation." CCC 2846
You see, here we are invited into the contemplation of being tempted versus consenting to temptation. This allows us to see the lies that temptation often shows us and therefore grants us the strength to not just resist, but to grow. Last note, this growth can only come through dedicated time in prayer and growing in intimacy with the Father.
Petition 7: “but deliver us from evil”
The final petition is one in which we ask God to free us from all evils, present, past, and future. It’s important to note that the evil signified here in this last petition is not an idea or event, but a person. Here we ask for protection from the devil and his plots against us, our loved ones, all humanity, the world, and the church. Again I want to emphasize, we do not pray this alone. Once more we see the utilization of the word “us” to signify the entirety of the Church and the communion of saints.
Our Father, as simple as it seems at first, proves to be far more complex and powerful than many of us give it credit. In it though, Jesus teaches us how to pray, how to approach the Father, how to ask things of the Father, and in which priority we should desire these things. Let us not forget the example he set.
Reflection for Prayer:
I invite you to read the Our Father line by line slowly, spending 2-3 minutes repeating and pondering each line before moving on. Ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten your mind with the true meaning of the words you read. Let the deeper meaning of the words sink into your heart. Lastly, say the prayer over one last time slowly, but all at once. This time with new found meaning and fervor for the prayer.