As a Catholic, sometimes it feels like I'm just reciting words when I say the Our Father or Hail Mary. If you're familiar with these prayers, you've probably felt the same way. It is only after studying the words you're saying that you can truly appreciate the deeper meaning behind these prayers. Below you will find a breakdown of the Our Father, and the seven petitions it contains.
One of the most recited prayers said by believers, the Our Father runs deeper than words repeated over and over. This unique and beautifully versed prayer teaches us what we should desire in our lives, in the order they should be desired.
We begin with the first petition, “hallowed be thy name” in which we recognize God’s name as holy. As God’s creation, we human beings cannot bless the name of God, but we distinguish it as holy when we call his name “hallowed”. This teaches us to desire the holiness of God, since this holiness plays a pivotal role in God’s mystery. “Asking the Father that His name be made holy draws us into His plan of loving kindness for the fullness of time.”
The second petition “Thy kingdom come” proclaims the second coming of God’s kingdom. As Saint Cyprian stated in reference to Jesus “For as He is our resurrection, since in Him we rise, so He can also be understood as the Kingdom of God, for in Him we shall reign.” This petition reminds us of the imminent coming of Our Lord, and teaches us to desire our future reunion with Christ.
In the third petition “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” we recognize that God has a perfect plan for our lives, and we ask that we are guided to follow this divine plan. This reinforces the teaching that Christ has a supreme goal for each of us to follow. Our trust should always be found in our heavenly Father, as we are obey Him, and do our best to follow His will with His loving help.
In the fourth petition “give us this day our daily bread” we acknowledge that God is our Father, and we pronounce this by trusting Him as His children. With this trust, we ask that we are given the nourishment life requires, both spiritual and material. This petition does not exclusively refer to our hunger for bread, because we are told that “Man does not live on bread alone, but…by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Not only do we ask God for our own daily bread, but we also desire to have this Bread of Life: the body of Christ received in the Eucharist.
In the fifth petition “And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” we boldly ask that God forgive us in the same way we forgive others. By uttering these words, we acknowledge the fact that we are sinners, and express our desire to be forgiven. We must first learn to forgive those who sin against us before we ask the same of God, since we will be forgiven in the same way we show forgiveness to others.
The sixth petition “and lead us not into temptation” goes deeper into the last one. God cannot “lead us” into temptation since we are told that “God is not subject to temptation to evil, and He Himself tempts no one.” This petition teaches us to ask God to lead us down the path of righteousness, and to not allow us to give in to temptations thrown in our path by Satan.
The seventh petition “but deliver us from evil” asks God to protect us not only from evil itself, but also from the Devil, the source of all evil. This teaches us to trust in God as our redeemer, and our protector from harm.
“Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed by Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen”
These words of the Our Father are a shining example to us of how we should live our lives. The petitions contained in this prayer teach us what we should desire: everlasting communion with God in heaven, which can only be merited through our living out these petitions during our time on earth.
For more details on these 7 petitions, check out the Catechism of the Catholic Church. You can search here for paragraphs on specific topics.