Three Things We Can Learn of Prayer from The “Our Father”
By Fr. Daniel Pinell
The “Our Father”, the prayer Jesus taught us and most of us memorized as little children, is packed full of wisdom and insights on how to grow in intimacy with God through prayer. One of the dangers of being too familiar with this prayer is that we tend to overlook the reasons why this prayer became so ubiquitous in the first place.
By keeping in mind these three lessons from the Our Father, we can remind ourselves how instrumental this prayer can be in our relationship with God.
The first lesson we can learn from this prayer is the importance of knowing who we are addressing. Jesus starts this prayer simply, “Our Father who art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy Name.” Our God wants to relate to us as a Father does to a child. The word for “Father” in the original language was one commonly used by little children when they were calling for their parents. This reminds us that God delights in a child-like faith, that is, in a trust so deep and unshakable that a child has with their father.
From this first sentence we also know that God’s name is holy, or to be reverenced. The God of the universe is holy, set apart, and while close to us as a good father is to a child, He is also a perfect and good, and worthy of all our praises. This is a God whose holy name is to be cherished by our lips and our hearts.
The second lesson we can learn from this prayer is that we should always pray for God’s will to be done. “Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” This is not so much a request by the Christian but an affirmation. As followers of Christ, our primary allegiance must shift from the kingdoms of this world to the Kingdom of God. In saying this prayer, we are saying “yes!” to the will of God in our lives and in the world.
The third lesson we can learn from this prayer is our utter dependence on God. “Give us this day our daily bread…forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive others who trespass against us.” We are instructed to pray for our basic needs daily. It doesn’t do to pray just once for a year’s provision of bread. The temptation would be to pray once and forget about God until our resources run out. The daily prayer of our needs reminds us that we are ever dependent upon God, and this daily prayer helps us shatter the myth of self-sufficiency that is so prevalent in our affluent world.
It also reminds us that we need forgiveness. Not only that, but we need a forgiving heart, because an unforgiving heart, one who refuses to forgive others, is unable to receive forgiveness from God. If we refuse to forgive others then we haven’t truly realized how much in need of forgiveness we are.
If you want to grow in your relationship with God, prayer is the avenue that will get us there. The Our Father has been rightly treasured as the model prayer for our lives, and we do well to meditate on the wisdom and insights stored in this short but powerful prayer.