Catechism : Prayer

48. The 'Our Father' (n. 2759-2865)

The Catechism concludes its treatment of prayer and the Catechism itself with a lengthy treatment of the Lord’s Prayer. In the Mass the Church invites us to begin the Communion Rite with this prayer and speaks of it as a prayer that we ‘dare’ to pray (see n. 2777). ‘Dare’ is a translation of the Greek word parrhesia which is described as including: ‘straightforward simplicity, filial trust, joyous assurance, humble boldness and the certainty of being loved’(n. 2778).

The ‘our’ in ‘Our Father’ reminds us of the profoundly ecumenical dimension of this prayer which we share with all those who wish to follow Jesus (see n. 2791-2793). We pray this prayer as a Christian family, regretting our brokenness and longing for communion. No one is excluded.

When we address our prayer to our Father ‘in heaven’ we are not suggesting that God is somewhere in the heavens distant from us. ‘Heaven’ is a way of speaking of the dimension of all reality that is sacred, suffused with God’s presence. This includes the human heart, and the ‘heart’ (the sacred and intimate depths) of all reality. We are opening our heart to communion with God, knowing that it is in this communion that we find our true homeland (see n. 2794).

1. Hallowed be Your Name (Catechism 2807-2815)

From the beginning our focus is on God. Our prayer is that the whole of creation will come to recognize that God is ‘holy’ and grow in a deep respect for the sacred. We are to remember the words spoken by God to Moses on Mount Sinai: ‘If you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation’(Exodus 19:5-6). Writing to the Gentile Churches in the East, Paul prays: ‘that you might be holy and blameless before him in love’(Ephesians 1:4).

2. Your kingdom come (Catechism n. 2816-2821)

God’s kingdom comes wherever and whenever people open themselves to the reign of God’s love. God does not control the world or force love. Hence our prayer. It includes a commitment on our part to listen and heed and believe in God’s love, and to eliminate anything that is blocking us from allowing God’s love free entry into our lives. It includes also a longing that the whole world will be open to God’s gracious presence and action.

3. Your will be done on earth as in heaven (Catechism n. 2822-2827)

n. 2822. ‘Our Father "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth"(1Timothy 2:3-4).  He "is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish"(2Peter 3:9; see Matthew 18:14). His commandment is "that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another"(John 13:34; see Luke 10:25-37). This commandment summarizes all the others and expresses his entire will.’

n. 2823. ‘"He has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ . . . to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will"(Ephesians 1:9-11). We ask insistently for this loving plan to be fully realized on earth as it is already in heaven.’

n. 2824. ‘In Christ, and through his human will, the will of the Father has been perfectly fulfilled once for all. Jesus said on entering into this world: "Lo, I have come to do your will, O God"(Hebrews 10:7; Psalm 40:7). Only Jesus can say: "I always do what is pleasing to him"(John 8:29). In the prayer of his agony, he consents totally to this will: "not my will, but yours be done"(Luke 22:42). For this reason Jesus "gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father"(Galatians 1:4). "And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all"(Hebrews 10:10).’

n. 2825. ‘"Although he was a Son, Jesus learned obedience through what he suffered"(Hebrews 5:8). How much more reason have we sinful creatures to learn obedience—we who in him have become children of adoption. We ask our Father to unite our will to his Son's, in order to fulfill his will, his plan of salvation for the life of the world. We are radically incapable of this, but united with Jesus and with the power of his Holy Spirit, we can surrender our will to him and decide to choose what his Son has always chosen: to do what is pleasing to the Father (see John 8:29).

‘In committing ourselves to Christ, we can become one spirit with him, and thereby accomplish his will, in such wise that it will be perfect on earth as it is in heaven’(Origen. On Prayer 26).

‘Consider how Jesus Christ] teaches us to be humble, by making us see that our virtue does not depend on our work alone but on grace from on high. He commands each of the faithful who prays to do so universally, for the whole world. For he did not say "your will be done in me or in us," but "on earth," the whole earth, so that error may be banished from it, truth take root in it, all vice be destroyed on it, virtue flourish on it, and earth no longer differ from heaven’(John Chrysostom Homily on Matthew 19:5).’

4. Give us today our daily bread (Catechism n. 2828-2837)

n. 2831. ‘The presence of those who hunger because they lack bread opens up another profound meaning of this petition. The drama of hunger in the world calls Christians who pray sincerely to exercise responsibility toward their brethren, both in their personal behaviour and in their solidarity with the human family. This petition of the Lord's Prayer cannot be isolated from the parables of the poor man Lazarus (see Luke 16:19-31) and of the Last Judgment (see Matthew 25:31-46).’

n. 2835. ‘This petition, with the responsibility it involves, also applies to another hunger from which men are perishing: "Man does not live by bread alone, but … by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God"(Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4), that is, by the Word he speaks and the Spirit he breathes forth. Christians must make every effort "to proclaim the good news to the poor." There is a famine on earth, "not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of YHWH"(Amos 8:11). For this reason the specifically Christian sense of this fourth petition concerns the Bread of Life: The Word of God accepted in faith, the Body of Christ received in the Eucharist (see John 6:26-58).’

2837. ‘"Daily" (epiousios) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. Taken in a temporal sense, this word is a pedagogical repetition of "this day"(see Exodus 16:19-21), to confirm us in trust "without reservation." Taken in the qualitative sense, it signifies what is necessary for life, and more broadly every good thing sufficient for subsistence (see 1Timothy 6:8). Taken literally (epi-ousios: "super-essential”), it refers directly to the Bread of Life, the Body of Christ, the "medicine of immortality," without which we have no life within us (see Ignatius of Antioch Letter to the Ephesians 20.2). Finally in this connection, its heavenly meaning is evident: "this day" is the Day of the Lord, the day of the feast of the kingdom, anticipated in the Eucharist that is already the foretaste of the kingdom to come. For this reason it is fitting for the Eucharistic liturgy to be celebrated each day.

‘The Eucharist is our daily bread. The power belonging to this divine food makes it a bond of union. Its effect is then understood as unity, so that, gathered into his Body and made members of him, we may become what we receive … This also is our daily bread: the readings you hear each day in church and the hymns you hear and sing. All these are necessities for our pilgrimage’(see Augustine Sermon 57.7).

‘The Father in heaven urges us, as children of heaven, to ask for the bread of heaven. Christ himself is the bread who, sown in the Virgin, raised up in the flesh, kneaded in the Passion, baked in the oven of the tomb, reserved in churches, brought to altars, furnishes the faithful each day with food from heaven’(Peter Chrysologus Sermon 67).’

5. Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us (Catechism 2838-2845)

n. 2843. ‘Thus the Lord’s words on forgiveness, the love that loves to the end (see John 13:1), become a living reality. The parable of the merciless servant, which crowns the Lord's teaching on ecclesial communion, ends with these words: "So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart"(see Matthew 18:23-35). It is there, in fact, "in the depths of the heart," that everything is bound and loosed. It is not in our power not to feel or to forget an offence; but the heart that offers itself to the Holy Spirit turns injury into compassion and purifies the memory in transforming the hurt into intercession.’

6. Lead us not into temptation (Catechism n. 2846-2849)

‘We ask God not to allow us to take the way that leads to sin’(n. 2846). This includes a decision of the heart not to go that way (see n. 2848).

7. Deliver us from evil (Catechism n. 2850-2854)

‘In this petition, evil is not to an abstraction, but reference to a person, Satan’(n. 2851).