The model of the Christian’s prayer is the Lord Jesus Christ himself. The Saviour prayed often, be it alone in solitary places (see Lk 5:16) or together with his disciples (see Lk 9:18). Sometimes he prayed into the night (see Mt 14:23), and sometimes he rose to pray long before dawn (see Mk 1:35). Jesus also prays in special moments associated with important events in his life: at the time of his baptism in the Jordan (see Lk 3:21-22), in the desert as he struggled with temptations (see Mt 4:1-11; Lk 4:1-14), before the calling of the twelve apostles (see Lk6:12f ), on the eve of the recognition of his Messiahship by the apostle Peter (see Lk 9:18f ), at the time of his Transfiguration on Mount Tabor (see Lk 9:28-29), before raising Lazarus (see Jn 11:41), at the Mystical Supper (see Lk 22:19; Jn 17), in the garden of Gethsemane before his Passion (see Mt 26:36; Mk 14:32; Lk 22:40f ), and as he died on the Cross (see Lk 23:46).
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The disciples, impressed by the prayerfulness of their Teacher, asked him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples” (Lk 11:1). Desiring to introduce his disciples into the mystery of his prayer to the Father, Jesus teaches them, and through them entrusts to his Church the pre-eminent Christian prayer. The evangelist Luke gives it to us in five petitions (see Lk 11:2-4), whereas the evangelist Matthew presents it in seven (see Mt 6:9-13). Matthew’s text became the basis of the accepted liturgical form:
Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be Thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil
The “Our Father” is the core of Holy Scripture, an “epitome of the whole Gospel.”437 Located in the Sermon on the Mount—the teaching about the new life of the Christian—it unites within itself the revelation of God as Father, and our filial response of faith, in which “with confidence” we ask the Father for “that which we need” (see Mt 6:32; Lk 12:30). We call this prayer, which we received and learned from the Lord himself, the Lord ’s Prayer. Thus, he is both the Teacher and Model of our prayer.
Calling God the Father who is “in heaven,” Christ teaches us that heaven is the aim of our life: heaven is where the glory of God is manifested, and where the righteous will receive the eternal reward. Heaven is what we await in the “hope [in which] we were saved
In the invocation “Our Father” we profess that God is Father, and that we are his children. Calling him “our,” we embrace all people in this prayer—children of the one God, we become brothers and sisters among ourselves. The word “Father” is a word of grace and love. It may be pronounced only by the Father’s sons and daughters in Christ: “Because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then an heir, through God” (Gal 4:6-7). In this first word of the prayer, and then in all the subsequent phrases, we pronounce our filial “yes” to God the Father and to our brothers and sisters in service to each other. Calling God the Father who is “in heaven,” Christ teaches us that heaven is the aim of our life: heaven is where the glory of God is manifested, and where the righteous will receive the eternal reward. Heaven is what we await in the “hope [in which] we were saved” (Rom 8:24).
By the words “hallowed be Thy name” we confess that holiness belongs to God alone. At the same time, we ask that we who were sanctified through Baptism, might be made partakers of God’s sanctity, and that we would “be holy and blameless before him” (Eph 1:4). This is so that through our prayer and righteous life the Name of God may be hallowed among people (see Mt 5:16) and in all creation. In the petition “Thy kingdom come,” we ask that the grace of God that is in us (see Lk 17:21) might grow and increase in the whole world. This petition, just like “Maraná tha” (meaning Come, Lord), refers to the final coming of the kingdom of God, but it is also already answered: this kingdom is revealed in the Eucharist and is active in the new life of Christians as they live according to the commandments of the Beatitudes.
Fulfilling the will of the Father, we become like Christ, the Son of God, cultivating within ourselves the same thoughts and manner of life that were in him (see Phil 2:5).
With the words “Thy will be done,” we accept the Father’s Plan concerning us. This is because we imitate Christ’s prayer in the garden of Gethsemane: “Father … not my will but yours be done” (Lk 22:42). In other words, we profess our faith that the will of the Father is the life and salvation of every person; God does not desire that any should perish (see 2 Pt 3:9), but that “everyone be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4). The Father, who in his will so loved the world that he gave us his Only-Begotten Son (see Jn 3:16), awaits from us in turn this same kind of love. He expects us to love one another as the Lord has loved us (see Jn 13:34). Fulfilling the will of the Father, we become like Christ, the Son of God, cultivating within ourselves the same thoughts and manner of life that were in him (see Phil 2:5). In this way, we shall attain the freedom of the children of God. When “the will of God is ‘done on earth as it is in heaven,’ the earth will remain earth no longer… we shall all become heaven.
As children of God, with confidence we can ask for that which we need most: bread, forgiveness, the overcoming of temptation, and liberation from the Evil One. When we ask for the bread “that is for existence” (as the text of Matthew literally suggests), we ask the Father to give us daily bread, necessary for earthly life, and “heavenly” bread, the Eucharist. Anyone who eats of this heavenly Bread will not die but will live forever (see Jn 6:50-51). By this petition, Jesus Christ teaches us “to desire and ask for that which is indispensable for our life and the life of our neighbours, but also to be satisfied with the essential and not to crave the superfluous. He also teaches us to desire life in evangelical poverty, to which all are called.”
By reciting the words “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,” we receive forgiveness from God the Father for ourselves inasmuch as we forgive those who have wronged us. The Father who forgives us our sins desires that we do the same: “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Mt 6:14-15; see Mk 11:25-26). An offense is not only a sin or wrong that has been committed; it is also the debt of a good deed not rendered. Thus a gift from God wasted or not made use of for God’s glory and the service of our neighbour is an offense In the petition “lead us not into temptation,” we express our faith that God will not allow us to be tempted beyond our endurance, and that with every temptation he will give us the strength to resist (see 1 Cor10:13). We do not ask God to remove all temptations because trials are a testing for the soul and an occasion for good works. Struggles with temptations strengthen the soul in goodness and so the apostle James teaches: “My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy” (Jas 1:2). We pray that “temptations may not overcome us, that we not succumb to them, and that we not fail in the struggle; we ask God not to allow our fall in temptations.”
As children of God, with confidence we can ask for that which we need most: bread, forgiveness, the overcoming of temptation, and liberation from the Evil One
In the words “deliver us from evil,” we express awareness of our frailty, and pray to the Father that through the wiles of the Evil One we should not fall away from him who is our greatest Good.443 In asking God’s protection from the Evil One, who takes advantage of the propensity of our will to wrong and of our mind to error, we profess our faith in our victory over evil, for “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Rom 5:20). At the Divine Liturgy the priest concludes the “Our Father” with a doxology praising the Triune God, to whom belong the kingdom, the power and the glory, now and for ever and ever. “Then we say, ‘Amen,’ which means ‘So be it,’ thus setting [our] seal upon the petitions of the prayer given to us by the divine teacher.”
Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky teaches the following about the significance of the “Our Father” for the Christian’s spiritual life:
If we pray in a properly Christian way we cannot say more than what is contained in the Lord’s Prayer. This is because we cannot desire anything better or higher or more suitable for us than the desires we express in the petitions of the Our Father. The Our Father is the last word in prayer, it is the absolute prayer. We might even say that outside of this prayer, there is no prayer. Everything that is prayer is contained in this prayer.