The “Our Father,” or “The Lord’s Prayer,” stands without peer among the prayers found in Sacred Scripture.
St. Augustine said,:
“Run through all the words of the holy prayers [in Scripture], and I do not think that you will find anything in them that is not contained and included in the Lord’s Prayer.”
There is probably no prayer more widely known than the Our Father. It’s the go-to prayer of most Catholics. Like a well-worn, favorite piece of clothing, we wrap ourselves around this prayer during difficult times.
Sadly, that familiarity can sometimes breed contempt.
We often rattle off the Our Father without even thinking about the words we are saying. So it’s wise to regularly check-in with this powerful prayer to renew our appreciation of it.
And because of its divine origin, it is inexhaustible in how it can speak to us. In fact, the Catechism of the Catholic Church dedicates over one hundred paragraphs to unfolding its beauty (CCC 2759-2865). In the next two posts, I’m going to propose three “invitations” of the Our Father prayer.
#1: The Invitation to Purification
This is not a purification from sin (that comes later in petition #5), but rather a purification of our heart from any obstacles to experiencing the full measure of the Father’s love for us.
It “has to do with paternal or maternal images, stemming from our personal and cultural history, and influencing our relationship with God. God our Father transcends the categories of the created world. To impose our own ideas in this area upon him would be to fabricate idols to adore or pull down. To pray to the Father is to enter into his mystery as he is and as the Son has revealed him to us” (CCC 2779).
For example, if early in your life someone carved out an image of God for you, that portrays him as a cosmic Santa Claus keeping a list of all your good deeds and bad, or a capricious god who cannot be trusted, then that is an idol.
Tear Down Your Idols
The Church implores us to pull it down, get rid of it, because that is not the Father revealed by Jesus Christ. So, before we even speak a syllable of the Lord’s Prayer we need to ask the Lord to cleanse us of these interior obstacles to his love. I put this intention in a very simple prayer:
“Father, you know my life. For much of my life, I saw you as a distant deity ready to judge me for being an imperfect son. Help me, by your grace, to tear down that idol and behind it find you waiting for me with the loving arms of a Father. Through Christ, in the Spirit. Amen.”
In the next post, we will explore the Invitation to Filiation and the Invitation to Imitation.
Now over to you:
What are your reflections on the Our Father in your life, and on this first invitation?
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About Thomas Smith
Thomas Smith is the co-author of Wisdom: God’s Vision for Life, Revelation: The Kingdom Yet to Come and The Prophets: Messengers of God’s Mercy. He is an international presenter for The Great Adventure Bible Timeline. Bringing a wealth of experience and insight on the Word of God to audiences across the U.S., Thomas is a repeat guest on EWTN and Catholic radio as well as a sought after parish mission and conference speaker. Thomas Smith has taught as an adjunct professor at the St. Francis School of Theology in Denver, and is the former Director of the Denver Catholic Biblical School and the Denver Catechetical School. He lives on his family ranch in southeastern Idaho and writes for his website www.gen215.org.
This article was first published July 17, 2014 on The Great Adventure Blog (biblestudyforcatholics.com), the former home of the Ascension Blog. For information about The Great Adventure Bible study series, click here.
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