PART IV: CHRISTIAN PRAYER
Section Two: The Lord’s Prayer, “Our Father”
Article 1, “The Summary of the Whole Gospel” (cont’d)
I. At the Center of the Scriptures
§ 2762 After showing how the psalms are the principal food of Christian prayer and flow together in the petitions of the Our Father, St. Augustine concludes:
- “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” (Ep 130, 12, 22: PL 33, 503).
§ 2763 All the Scriptures – the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms – are fulfilled in Christ (cf. Luke 24:44). The Gospel is this “Good News.” Its first proclamation is summarized by St. Matthew in the Sermon on the Mount (cf. Matthew 5-7); the prayer to Our Father is at the center of this proclamation. It is in this context that each petition bequeathed to us by the Lord is illuminated:
- “The Lord’s Prayer is the most perfect of prayers…In it we ask, not only for all the things we can rightly desire, but also in the sequence that they should be desired. This prayer not only teaches us to ask for things, but also in what order we should desire them” (STh II-II, 83, 9).
§ 2764 The Sermon on the Mount is teaching for life, the Our Father is a prayer; but in both the one and the other the Spirit of the Lord gives new form to our desires, those inner movements that animate our lives. Jesus teaches us this new life by His words; He teaches us to ask for it by our prayer. The rightness of our life in Him will depend on the rightness of our prayer.
II. “The Lord’s Prayer”
§ 2765 The traditional expression “the Lord’s Prayer” – Oratio Dominica – means that the prayer to Our Father is taught and given to us by the Lord Jesus. The prayer that comes to us from Jesus is truly unique: it is “of the Lord.” On the one hand, in the words of this prayer the Only Son gives us the words the Father gave Him (cf. John 17:7): He is the Master of our prayer. On the other, as Word Incarnate, He knows in His human Heart the needs of His human brothers and sisters and reveals them to us: He is the Model of our prayer.
§ 2766 But Jesus does not give us a formula to repeat mechanically (cf. Mt 6:7; 1 Kings 18:26-29). As in every vocal prayer, it is through the Word of God that the Holy Spirit teaches the children of God to pray to their Father. Jesus not only gives us the words of our filial prayer; at the same time, He gives us the Spirit by whom these words become in us “spirit and life” (Jn 6:63). Even more, the proof and possibility of our filial prayer is that the Father “sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Galatians 4:6).
Since our prayer sets forth our desires before God, it is again the Father, “he who searches the hearts of men,” who “knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:27). The prayer to Our Father is inserted into the mysterious mission of the Son and of the Spirit.
Tomorrow – The Prayer of the Church
(Part IV, Section 2, Article 1 – to be continued)
[Editor’s Note: The abbreviations in today’s posting are noted below.]
- “cf.” – “confer [compare or refer to]”
- “Ep” – St. Augustine, “Epistulae [Epistles or Letters]”
- “PL” – “Patrologia Latina [Latin Patrology]”, an enormous collection of writings of the Church Fathers and other ecclesiastical writers in the Latin language published by J. P. Migne, (Paris, 1841‑1855 A.D.)
- “STh” – St. Thomas Aquinas, “Summa Theologiae [Summary of Theology]”