In every way, the ‘Our Father’ is the most sublime prayer we have. Jesus taught it to his disciples on their request. Though its structure is akin to similar prayers recited in the synagogues of the time, its content is uniquely its own.
The text we read in today’s Gospel is Matthew’s, which differs slightly from that of Luke. We’ll comment briefly on the words of the prayer, keeping in mind that the prayer has overtones of the Endtime, that is, when God’s reign comes to final fulfillment.
Father. A daring way to address God, unique to the Christian faith. We call God ‘Father’, because his ‘Son’ Jesus, someone of the same nature as God, encouraged us to do so. To be God’s children then, requires us to be obedient to our Father, as Jesus was.
Holy be your name. God manifests his holiness in Jesus, and never more fully than during Jesus’s passion and death, which is also the moment when God sends us his Spirit. The term ‘name’ is a Hebrew way of saying ‘the whole person’.
Your Kingdom come. Better, may your Reign of goodness, truth and love be established among us. The early Church paraphrased this: “May your Holy Spirit come upon us and cleanse us.”
Our Daily Bread. Our petition is for God’s care in the daily handling of all our needs.
But ‘bread’ in the Gospels also has Eucharistic connotations. God sustains both our bodies and our souls.
Forgive us our sins. This petition implies a corresponding action on ours, “as we forgive…” Mercy is the key characteristic of God’s dealings with us, as it should be our way of relating to one another.
Put us not to the test. We pray that we may not be tested beyond our strength, and specially not fall prey to the wiles of the evil one. The conventional idea of temptation is that of inducement to wrongdoing, specially related to money or sex. But this is an incomplete understanding. In the Bible everyone must be ‘tested’, ‘tempted’ — as “gold in the fire” — to be toughened, and made better.