A few months ago I read Scott Hahn’s small but wonderful book Understanding “Our Father”: Biblical Reflections on the Lord’s Prayer. It totals only 146 pages of which the first 78 pages are about the different petitions/sections of the Lord’s Prayer. Part two of the book contains reflections from early Church Fathers St. Cyprian, St. Cyril, St. John Chrysostom and St. Augustine. It’s a fast-paced and interesting read that I highly recommend to anyone wanting to delve deeper into this prayer. I only began to really study the prayer a few short years ago. It is too easily dismissed (and overlooked) by even Christians themselves which, when you think about it, is pretty arrogant considering the Source of the words.
Instead of my feeble attempts at discussion I’ll turn instead to today’s Office of Readings containing the following portion from a letter to Proba by St. Augustine. In the letter Augustine demonstrates the breadth of the Lord’s Prayer as well as the attitude of our heart that we bring to the table.
We read, for example: May you receive glory among all the nations as you have among us, and May your prophets prove themselves faithful. What does this mean but Hallowed be your name?
We read: Lord of power and might, touch our hearts and show us your face, and we shall be saved. What does this mean but Thy kingdom come?
We read: Direct my ways by your word, and let no sin rule over me. What does this mean but Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven?
We read: Do not give me poverty or riches. What does this mean but Give us this day our daily bread?
We read: Lord, remember David and all his patient suffering, and Lord, if I have done this, if there is guilt on my hands, if I have repaid evil for evil… What does that mean but Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us?
We read: Rescue me, God, from my enemies, deliver me from those who rise up against me. What does this mean but Deliver us from evil?
If you study every word of the petitions of Scripture, you will find, I think, nothing that is not contained and included in the Lord’s Prayer. When we pray, then, we may use different words to say the same things, but we may not say different things.
We should not hesitate to make these prayers for ourselves, for our friends, for strangers, and even for enemies, though the emotions in our heart may vary with the strength or weakness of our relationships with individuals.
You now know, I think, the attitudes you should bring to prayer, as well as the petitions you should make, and this not because of what I have taught you but thanks to the teaching of the one who has been pleased to teach us all.