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Catechism & Catechesis
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A Popular Guide Based on The Catechism of the Catholic Church
by John A. Hardon, S.J.
Part Four: Christian Prayer
Chapter One: The Revelation of Prayer
Chapter Two: The Tradition of Prayer
Chapter Three: The Life of Prayer
SECTION II: THE LORDS PRAYER
Chapter One: The Lords Prayer as a Summary of the Gospel
Chapter Two: Our Father Who Art in Heaven
Chapter Three: The Seven Petitions
Chapter Four: The Final Doxology
Part Four: Christian Prayer
Section I: Prayer in the Christian Life: What is Prayer?
Our faith is a great mystery. The Church professes and celebrates this faith in the Apostles Creed. She celebrates this faith in the sacraments and the liturgy. The faithful live out this faith in their following of Christ. These were the first three parts of The Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Now we are to see how the following of Christ is to be a vital and personal relationship with the living and true God. This relationship is prayer.
For me, prayer is an outreach of the heart. It is a simple looking up to heaven. It is a cry of recognition and of love, whether in the depths of trial or in the peak of joy, wrote St. Therese of Lisieux (Autobiography, 25).
1125. What is the foundation of prayer?
Humility is the foundation of prayer. The one who humbles himself will be exalted by being given the grace to pray. In the words of St. Augustine, Man is a beggar before God.
1126. How is prayer a response to Gods thirst for our love?
As shown in Christs dialogue with the Samaritan woman at the well, God wants us to love Him. We may say He thirsts for the response of our hearts to His, which is the essence of prayer.
1127. Where does prayer come from?
It comes from the heart. When the heart is separated from God, there cannot be prayer.
1128. What is the heart?
It is the center of our being, where we choose life or death. It is also the place of our covenant with God.
1129. How is prayer a communion?
It is the ongoing relationship between God and ourselves. It means the habit of living in the presence of the thrice holy God.
Chapter One: The Revelation of Prayer
Human beings have always sought God. It is therefore not surprising that God revealed Himself to mankind from the dawn of salvation history. He wants us to respond to His revelation in the covenant drama that engages our heart, which is at the root of prayer.
Article 1: In the Old Testament
The revelation of prayer in the Old Testament spans the long centuries between the fall of our first parents and the redemption of the human race by the Son of God, who told His heavenly Father, I have come to do your will, O God (Heb 10:7).
1130. What is the basic source of prayer?
As revealed in the first nine chapters of Genesis, the basic source of prayer is the fact of creation. God is our Creator; we are His creatures. Therefore, we must pray.
1131. How is Abraham our model of prayer?
By the complete submission of his heart to the will of God. Abraham was ready to sacrifice even his son, Isaac. Our willingness to sacrifice enables us, to share in the power of Gods love.
1132. How is prayer a struggle and a triumph?
Prayer is a struggle because we pray in faith, believing that our prayers will be heard. It is a triumph because we are sure of our destiny, provided that we persevere in prayer.
1133. How is Moses a model of the prayer of mediation?
Moses, as a friend of God, more than once mediated between God and the people of Israel. Because of this prayerful mediation, the Israelites were spared the punishment they deserved for their unfaithfulness, and were finally led to the Promised Land.
1134. How was King David the first prophet of Jewish and Christian prayers?
He was a king according to Gods heart. His many prayers, especially the Psalms, became the norm for Jewish prayers and are an integral part of Christian worship. The prayer of Christ was the fulfillment of the prayerful prophecies of King David.
1135. What are the main features of Elijahs prayer?
His prayer set the pattern for the prophets who followed him. It was a prayer of intercession for his people, preparing them for the intervention of God the Savior, the Lord of history.
1136. What are the main features of the Psalms?
Article 2: In the Fullness of Time
The full revelation of prayer did not come until the coming of Christ. Accordingly, there are three aspects of prayer as revealed in the New Testament that should be considered: contemplate our Lord in prayer, see what He teaches us about prayer, in order that He might hear our prayers.
1137. What is most distinctive about the prayer of Jesus?
It is the prayer of the eternal Son of God to His heavenly Father, praying in His humanity for us human beings.
1138. What aspects of Christs prayer are emphasized by St. Luke?
1139. What is the significance of Christs words, Your will be done?
These words synthesize the whole prayer of Jesus, namely the loving commitment of His human heart to the mystery of the Fathers will.
1140. How are we to follow Christs example in prayer?
Like Him, we should first give ourselves to God, since He is our Treasure. Praying in this way, we also obtain what we ask for.
1141. What prayer of Jesus sums up all the prayers of human history?
It was the prayer of Jesus on the Cross, when He said, Father, into your hands I commend my spirit. In the last analysis, this is what we are always to be saying to God: entrusting every trial into the loving hands of God.
1142. What are the main lessons Jesus taught us about prayer?
The primary lesson He gave us was His own example in prayer. However, He also gave us detailed directives on how to pray. Among these, the most important are:
1143. What are the three principal parables of Jesus on prayer?
1144. What are the new elements that Christ introduced into prayer?
He told us to pray to the Father in His name. Jesus is the Son of God who became man, our divine intercessor with the Father. He promised to send us another Advocate, the Holy Spirit, who will ensure that our joy is complete.
1145. How does Jesus hear our prayers?
He hears them even as He heard them in Palestine. He works miracles in favor of those who pray to Him in faith. As St. Augustine says, Jesus prays for us as our priest. He prays in us as our Head. He is prayed to by us as our God. Therefore, let us acknowledge our voice in Him and His voice in us (Enarrationes in Psalmos 85, 1).
1146. What are the two beginnings when the prayer of Mary is revealed to us?
Mary prayed at the dawn of the Incarnation; her Fiat brought the Son of God to become her son in the flesh. Mary also prayed at the dawn of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday.
1147. How is the power of Marys intercession demonstrated with her divine Son?
At Cana, her intercession wrought the miracle that prefigured the miracle of the Eucharist. Christ gives His Body and Blood at the request of the Church, His bride. On Calvary, Marys silent prayer under the Cross entitled her to become the Mother of all the living.
1148. How is Marys Magnificat the song of both the Mother of God and of the new People of God?
On both levels, the Magnificat is a song of thanksgiving both for the graces bestowed on Mary and the communication of graces to the world through the Church. But the Magnificat is also the song of the poor. Their hope is fulfilled in Gods keeping the promises He made to Abraham and his descendants forever.
Article 3: In the Age of the Church
Not surprisingly, as the disciples and Mary awaited the coming of the Holy Spirit, they were gathered together in prayer. Once the Holy Spirit came, He taught the infant Church what Christians should know about prayer, even to the end of time. These forms of prayer, revealed in the apostolic Church, have become normative for all the followers of Christ.
1149. How does blessing express the fundamental movement of prayer?
It does so in two ways;
1150. What is the prayer of adoration?
It is the acknowledgment of ourselves as creatures before our Creator. It is the homage of our spirit before the King of Glory and the respectful silence we owe to the ever greater God.
1151. What is the prayer of petition?
In New Testament terms, it is variously described as: asking, insistently calling, beseeching, invoking, entreating, crying out, and even wrestling in prayer. But the most common term is petition.
1152. Are there any lamentations in the New Testament?
Scarcely any, in contrast with their frequency in the Old Testament. Such lamentations as occur in St. Paul are really expressions of his deep desire to be delivered from the sorrows of this life and to be united with Christ.
1153. What is the basic object of the prayer of petition?
It is to beg forgiveness for our sins. This plea for mercy is the prelude to both the Eucharistic liturgy and personal prayer.
1154. Is there a hierarchy in our prayers of petition?
Yes. We should first pray for the coming of the kingdom. Then we ask for what is necessary to accept it, and finally for grace to cooperate in its attainment.
1155. Can every need be the object of petition?
Yes, we should see in every need in our lives the occasion for asking God for the grace to meet this need.
1156. What is the prayer of intercession?
This is the prayer of petition for the needs of others. Our prayers of intercession should know no boundaries. We should intercede for the needs of our fellow Christians and extend our prayer even for the salvation of those who reject the Gospel.
1157. How does the prayer of thanksgiving characterize the Church?
The Holy Eucharist is the great prayer of thanksgiving; as believers we participate in Christs thanksgiving to His heavenly Father. As with petition, we should express our gratitude to God in every event and need of our life.
1158. What is the prayer of praise?
In the prayer of praise, we sing the glory of God not for what He has done but because of who He is. Praise integrates the other forms of prayer and raises them to Him who is the Source and Goal of all creation.
1159. How does St. Luke emphasize the prayer of praise?
He does so by his praise of the wonders of Christ and the marvels of Christs Spirit in the Church.
1160. How did St. Paul instruct the early Christians on the prayer of praise?
He told them: Sing psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs among yourselves; singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts (Eph 5:19).
1161. What does the Apocalypse tell us about the prayer of praise in heaven?
It is filled with revelation of the canticles of the heavenly liturgy. The martyrs and saints continue praising God for their victory over suffering and persecution. The Church on earth unites herself with the Church Triumphant, since faith is pure praise.
1162. What is the sacrifice of praise?
It is the Holy Eucharist, in which the whole body of Christ is offered to the glory of Gods name.
Chapter Two: The Tradition of Prayer
Building on the revelation of prayer in the Old and New Testaments, the Church has preserved this revelation over the centuries. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, she has shaped the Christian tradition of prayer. In this way, the faith of believers has been safeguarded and developed through penetration into the spiritual realities they have experienced.
Article 1: Sources of Prayer
1163. What are the principal sources of prayer?
They are Sacred Scripture; the Churchs liturgy; the practice of the virtues of faith, hope, and charity; and the daily encounter of Gods providence in our lives.
Article 2: How to Pray
1164. What is our pathway in the practice of prayer?
It is the authority of the Church, based on apostolic tradition and always directing our prayer in relation to Jesus Christ. His humanity is the road by which the Holy Spirit teaches us to pray to God our Father.
1165. How is Jesus the primary focus of our prayer?
By the fact that He is our God who became man precisely to become the object of our worship and the inspiration of our love. The name of Jesus contains everything: God, man, and the whole economy of creation and salvation.
1166. What is the role of the Holy Spirit in Christian prayer?
The Holy Spirit is the interior Teacher of Christian prayer. He is always present by His grace in our souls. We should be conscious of His presence and, as Jesus told us, invoke the help of His enlightenment and strength.
1167. How should our prayer be in communion with the Mother of God?
Since Christ assumed His humanity from Mary, she is to be an integral part of our life of prayer.
1168. What has been the pattern of the Churchs Marian prayer over the centuries?
It has had two prominent features:
1169. How are these two features fulfilled in the Ave Maria?
1170. What are some of the most popular devotions to Our Lady?
In the West, the rosary became a medieval substitute for the Liturgy of the Hours. In the East, there is a Marian litany similar to the choral office, as well as a variety of popular hymns and songs addressed to Our Lady.
1171. How are we, like the beloved disciple, to welcome Mary into our homes?
We do so by praying with Mary, the Mother of all the living; and to Mary, who is the Mother of God.
Article 3: Guides for Prayer
Our special guides for prayer are also our great intercessors before God. They are the countless persons who have preceded us to heavenly glory. They have left us the inspiring example of their holy lives and a treasury of writings.
The variety of their approaches to God has given the Church what we may call different spiritualities. Yet, all are at one in the Spirit, who guided them during their stay on earth. In the words of St. Basil, The Spirit is truly the dwelling place of the saints and the saint is for the Spirit his proper dwelling place, since the saint offers to dwell with God and is called His Temple (De Spiritu Sancto, 26,62: Patrologica Graeca 32, 184).
1172. What is the first place for education in prayer?
It is the Christian family. For young children especially, daily family prayer is their first experience of the Church being brought up by the Holy Spirit.
1173. What is the responsibility of ordained ministers?
They are ordained precisely to guide the People of God to the living sources of prayer.
1174. What is the responsibility of religious?
Their consecrated life cannot be maintained or propagated without prayer. It is one of the living sources of contemplation and the spiritual life in the Church.
1175. What is catechesis in prayer?
It is an essential part of catechetical instruction of children, young people, and adults. They should be trained in personal prayer and the liturgy. Basic prayers are to be memorized and their meaning explained.
1176. What is the significance of prayer groups?
They are a sign of the renewal of prayer in the Church and evidence of the need for communion in prayer. However, these groups must be nourished on the authentic sources of Christian prayer.
1177. What is the role of spiritual direction in prayer?
Spiritual directors are to be persons gifted in faith, wisdom, and discernment of spirits for the common good. They should be experienced in the spiritual life.
1178. What are the places suitable for prayer?
A Catholic church is the first suitable place for liturgical prayer and for prayer before Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.
Chapter Three: The Life of Prayer
Prayer should animate every moment of our lives. Otherwise, we are liable to forget Him who is our Life and our All. In the words of St. Gregory Nazianzen, We should remember God more often than we breathe.
The Church provides us with rhythms of prayer: morning and evening prayers, grace before and after meals, the Liturgy of the Hours, Sunday and weekly celebration of the Eucharist. There are feast days and the whole cycle of the ecclesiastical year.
Article 1: Expressions of Prayer
Christian tradition gives us three principal expressions of prayer that deserve to be carefully explained. They are vocal prayers, meditation, and mental prayer.
1179. What is vocal prayer?
Vocal prayer is bodily prayer. It is prayer in which our senses are involved.
1180. Why is vocal prayer necessary?
Vocal prayer is basically necessary because we are not angels but human beings. We have a body and a soul. We are therefore to pray with our whole being. Moreover, God wants us to honor Him with all our faculties. Finally, vocal prayer enables us to pray as social beings, where we join with others and they with us, in vocal and sensibly perceptible harmony.
1181. What is meditation?
Meditation is a search or a quest. In meditation, the mind seeks to know and understand. It is the universal plea of the blind man in the Gospel, Lord, that I May see. It is the prayer that needs to see what God wants us to do, why He wants it, and how He wants it done. Meditation is reflective prayer.
1182. What are some useful aids to meditation?
They are as varied as our needs. The Scriptures and writings of the saints, sacred images and works of art, the texts of the liturgyall are useful for meditation.
1183. What is most important in meditation?
Most important is to be practical. In meditation, we are to focus on our own personal needs, on the present circumstances of our life, and on the here and now of our relationship to God.
1184. What are the methods of meditation?
They are numerous, but two things should be kept in mind. We must cultivate the habit of meditating regularly. And we must be convinced of the necessity for meditation, at the risk of becoming the first of the three fruitless soils in the parable of the sower. The evil spirit steals the word of God from the hearts of those who fail to understand it.
1185. What faculties should be engaged in meditation?
Literally, all the faculties: thought, imagination, emotion, and desire. What is most important is that, through meditation, we deepen our convictions of faith, arouse the conversion of our heart, and strengthen our resolve to follow Christ.
1186. What is mental prayer?
In the words of St. Teresa, As I see it, mental prayer is simply an intimate exchange of friendship where one enters into frequent conversation with God who, as we know, loves us (St. Teresa of Jesus, The Life of St. Teresa of Avila by Herself, 63).
1187. What are some practical guidelines for mental prayer?
We should have a definite time and duration for mental prayers. We cannot always meditate, but we can always engage in mental prayer, which is simply opening our hearts to God, for Him to open His heart to us.
1188. What are some synonyms for mental prayer?
Article 2: The Struggle of Prayer
Prayer is certainly a gift of divine grace. But it is also the fruit of our own determined effort. As the great figures of prayer down the ages make plain, it is a struggle to pray:
We pray as we live, because we live as we pray. The built-in conflict of the Christian life is inseparable form the conflict of prayer.
1189. What are the main objections to prayer?
They arise from three different sources and must be overcome if we are to pray as we should. They are:
Personal experience. We are tempted:
There is only one remedy: humility, confidence, and perseverance in prayer.
1190. How is humble vigilance of heart necessary for prayer?
Our distractions in prayer reveal preoccupation with created things. Our dominating possessiveness contrasts with Christs warning to be always on guard. And our dryness in prayer tells us to remain faithful to Jesus, even when we do not experience consolations. It may also tell us we need a moral conversion. On all these counts, watchful humility is necessary.
1191. What are the principal temptations in prayer?
They are a lack of faith and laziness. On the side of faith, we need to be convinced of our Lords warning, Without me, you can do nothing (Jn 15:5). On the side of laziness, we must humbly admit our sloth and practice self-discipline.
1192. What is the single greatest need in our prayers of petition?
It is childlike confidence in God. This calls for the right answers to two basic questions: Why do we think that our petition has not been heard? How is our prayer heard, that is, effective?
1193. Why do we think our prayers are not heard?
We are prone to ask for what we want and not for what God wants. We must learn not to pray with a divided heart, attached to our own selfish desires while praying as though we were open to the will of God.
1194. How is our prayer efficacious?
Our prayer is assured of being effective when it is grounded on the merits of Jesus Christ. Its efficacy is assured on two counts: Our Lord is praying in us and with us, and He is constantly praying for us. The secret is to have the trust and boldness of children who are sure of their fathers love.
1195. What does it mean to pray without ceasing?
This teaching of St. Paul tells us that we are to persevere in our love for God, which is at the heart of prayer. Behind this revealed injunction are three truths of our faith:
Article 3: The Prayer of Jesus in His Last Hour
The priestly prayer of Jesus at the Last Supper is a perfect prelude to our reflection on the Lords Prayer.
We are inspired to say everything that Jesus said in His prayer to the Father on Holy Thursday night when we recite the Our Father. Like the Savior we are to be concerned for the honor of the Fathers name. Like Jesus, we are to have a passionate zeal for the glory of God and the extension of His kingdom. Like the Redeemer, we are to fulfill the will of the Father, His plan of salvation, and His deliverance of the world from evil.
Finally, it is in this prayer on the night before He died that Jesus reveals to us and gives us the inseparable knowledge of the Father and the Son, which is the very mystery of the life of prayer.
Section II: The Lord's Prayer
The Lords Prayer is exactly that. It was Our Lord Himself who gave us this prayer in answer to the request of His disciples: Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples (Lk 11:1). Jesus then said, When you pray, say , followed by the text of the Our Father.
In the early Church, there was a liturgical addition to the Lords Prayer, which is now restored in the Common Missal. It reads: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. This doxology, or song of praise, dates from the first to the fifth centuries of the Christian era.
Chapter One: The Lord's Prayer as a Summary of the Gospel
1196. How is the Lords Prayer a summary of the whole Gospel?
Because it contains, in the form of petitions, everything that Christ came into the world to teach the human race.
1197. How is the Lords Prayer at the center of the Scriptures?
Because the center of the Scriptures is Jesus Christ, and the Lords Prayer is His own summary of our approach to the heavenly Father.
1198. Why is the Lords Prayer the most perfect prayer we can say?
It is the most perfect prayer because it not only expresses all the requests that we can justly make of God, but even gives us the order in which our petitions should be made.
1199. How is the Our Father related to the Sermon on the Mount?
In the Sermon on the Mount, Our lord teaches us the new life that He brought to the world. In the Our Father, He shows us how to ask for this new life in prayer.
1200. How is the Our Father the prayer of the Lord?
It is the prayer of the Lord because:
1201. What does Christ give us in the Lords Prayer?
He gives us more than just the words of this prayer. He infuses His Spirit into us. We are thus assumed into the mission of the Second and Third Persons of the Holy Trinity.
1202. When did the Church begin to use the Lords Prayer?
Already in apostolic times. The Lords Prayer was recited three times a day by the Christian communities in place of the eighteen benedictions of Judaism.
1203. How is the Our Father essentially a liturgical prayer?
As explained by St. John Chrysostom, The Lord teaches us to make our prayers in common for all our brethren. He did not say, my Father who art in heaven, but our Father, so that our prayer would be as of one soul, for the whole Body of the Church (Hom. in Mt. 19, 4: Patrologia Graeca 57, 278).
In all Catholic liturgical traditions, the Our Father is an integral part of the hours of the Divine Office. But especially prominent is its ecclesial character in the three sacraments of initiation.
Chapter Two: Our Father Who Art in Heaven
The opening of the Lords Prayer is a filial address to God as our Father in heaven. The seven petitions that follow are founded and inspired by our confident profession of faith in the fatherhood of our God.
This is in stark contrast with the extreme deference toward God that characterized the old covenant. Moses was told by God, Do not come closer. Take off your sandals.
Elevated by the Spirit of Christ, we address God as our Father. As expressed by St. Peter Chrysologus, When would a weak mortal dare call God his Father, unless the deepest recesses of man were animated by the Power from on high?
1204. What must we avoid in speaking of God as Father?
We must avoid being misled by the false images of fatherhood taken from this world. Terms like paternal or maternal are loaded with cultural and personal implications that would falsify our understanding of God as Father. They can become idols that destroy our knowledge of the one true God.
1205. How then can we invoke God as Father?
We can do so because we believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God become man. He revealed our participation in the sonship, which is beyond the grasp of angels or men.
1206. How do we become children of God?
We become children of God through Baptism. This entitles us to address God as Abba, Father! because we have become His adopted children by grace, sharing in the natural filiation of His Son, Jesus Christ.
1207. How does our relation to God differ from that of Christ?
Unlike Christ, who is the natural Son of God, we are all Gods creatures. The triune God is not our natural Father. He is our Creator. Only by grace do we become His adopted children.
1208. What are the consequences of this free gift of adoption?
They are mainly two; the desire and will to become like Him; and a humble and trustful heart. In the words of St. Gregory of Nyssa, We must constantly behold the beauty of the Father in order to shape our souls accordingly (De Orat. Dom. 2: Patrologia Graeca 44, 1148B). And in the words of St. Augustine, Our Father . . . how could He refuse His children anything they ask for when He has already allowed them to be His children? (De Sum. Dom. 2, 4: Patrologia Graeca 34, 1276).
1209. What does the word our tell us about the fatherhood of God?
It tells us many things, all arising from our new relation to God with the Coming of Christ.
1210. What does the expression heaven mean in the Lords Prayer?
Heaven means state of being. It designates Gods majesty. It means that God is in the heart of the just. It finally means the heavenly world where God lives and moves in those who enjoy His celestial vision.
When the Church prays, Our Father, who art in heaven, she professes that we are already the People of God, hidden with Christ in God (Col 3:3). Yet at the same time, we groan, looking forward to our heavenly dwelling place. In the words of a famous letter of the second century, Christians are in the flesh but they do not live according to the flesh. They pass their life here on earth, but they are citizens of heaven.
Chapter Three: The Seven Petitions
The opening of the Lords Prayer places us in Gods presence. We therefore first adore Him, love, and bless Him. Then we are ready to open our hearts to ask Him for what we need.
There are seven petitions. The first three are concerned for His kingdom, His will. The next four may be called Eucharistic needs in this world: Give us forgive us lead us not deliver us. The fourth and fifth petitions concern our life as such, our need for nourishment, and healing from sin; the last two petitions concern our struggle for the victory of life, the same struggle that involves our prayer.
By the first three petitions, we are strengthened in faith, filled with hope, and inflamed by charity. But we are creatures and sinners. So we must beg for ourselvesrepresenting history and the worldthat we may offer God our boundless love.
I. Hallowed Be Thy Name
1211. What does the word hallowed mean?
The word hallowed or sanctified here does not mean we are asking for God to be made holy. He is the all-holy One. Rather, we are asking that His holiness may be recognized and that His name may be treated in a holy manner.
1212. What obligation do we have to sanctify the name of God?
God has revealed His name in the decisive periods of salvation history. But He also revealed that His salvific work is accomplished for us and in us only if we sanctify His name.
1213. Has there been progress in Gods revelation of His holiness?
Yes. The holiness of God is an inaccessible mystery. The manifestation of this holiness in creation and history is called glory in Scripture. But once the world had sinned, God went beyond creation and history to reveal His very name, in order to restore the world to the image of the Creator.
1214. What is the record of God revealing His name in the Old Testament?
After the promise He made to Abraham, God gradually revealed His name through Moses and the prophets. By the covenant of Sinai, God formed His people to be holy and consecrated in His name. Yet, time and again the people turned away from the Holy One of Israel.
1215. How is the name of God revealed in the flesh?
In Jesus, the name of God is revealed and given to us in the flesh. At the end of His Passover, the Father gives Christ the name that is above every name, Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
1216. How are we sanctified?
In the water of Baptism, we have been sanctified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. But after Baptism, we have sinned; indeed we sin daily. That is why, in St. Cyprians third-century commentary on the Lords Prayer, We need to be daily purified of our sins by a daily sanctification (De Dom. Orat. 12: Patrologia Latina 4, 527A; Lev 20:26).
1217. For whose sanctification do we pray?
We pray not only for our own sanctification but also for that of the whole world, even for our enemies.
1218. How is the first petition related to the others?
This first petition contains all the others. Moreover, like the others, it is fulfilled in Christs own priestly prayer at the Last Supper when he says, Holy Father, in your name, protect those whom you have given to me (Jn 17:11).
II. Thy Kingdom Come
1219. What is the New Testament meaning of the kingdom?
The New Testament word basileia can be translated royalty, kingdom, or reign.
1220. How can we speak of the coming of Gods Kingdom?
Gods kingdom is brought near by the Word incarnate. It is announced throughout the Gospel. It is come in the death and Resurrection of Christ. It comes to us in the Eucharist. It will come when Christ hands the kingdom over to His Father. According to St. Cyprian, We may even say that the Kingdom of God is Christ in person. We desire His coming daily (De Dom. Orat. 13: Patrologia Latina 4, 544C-545A).
1221. How is this petition the cry, Come, Lord Jesus?
It is the cry of the martyrs asking the Lord to come to judge the world at the end of time. It is the cry of hope of those who had served God and suffered for His name.
1222. To what does this petition principally refer?
It mainly refers to the final coming of Gods kingdom with the return of Jesus Christ. The Church He established has her mission in the world. We pray that this mission will be accomplished by the Holy Spirit, who completes the work of the Savior on earth, which is our full sanctification.
1223. Who alone can truly say, Thy kingdom come?
Only those who have fought the decisive battle between the flesh and the spirit. Only those who have purified themselves in their actions, thoughts, and words can say to God, Thy kingdom come! as we read in St. Cyril of Jerusalems catechism of the third century.
1224. Are we to distinguish between the growth of the kingdom of God and the progress of the society in which we live?
Indeed, there is no necessary connection between the growth of the two. Yet, only the Spirit of God enables us to make the distinction.
1225. Are the two societies to be separated?
By no means. Our vocation to eternal life does not suppress but rather reinforces our duty to use the means given to us by the Creator for the promotion of justice and peace in this world.
1226. How is this petition offered and answered in the prayer of Jesus at the Last Supper?
Jesus prayed to His Father for the advent of His kingdom by the sanctification of His followers here on earth and their attainment of heavenly glory in the life to come. His prayer has been answered by the assurance of the grace we need. But we must cooperate with the graces received.
1227. How is this petition present and effective in the Eucharist?
Because the Eucharist is Jesus Christ, from whom we receive the light and strength we need to ensure the coming of the kingdom of God.
1228. How does this petition bear fruit in the new life of the Beatitudes?
As the followers of Christ live out the Beatitudes they are in effect bringing this petition to fruition. How so? Every practice of every Beatitude advances the advent of Christs kingdom: here on earth by the Churchs growth in sanctity, and in the life to come by the increase in the number and happiness of the elect, according to the mysterious designs of God.
III. Thy Will Be Done on Earth As It Is in Heaven
1229. What is the basic will of God?
The basic will of God is that everyone should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (I Tim 2:4). This means that God wants everyone to reach heaven and attain to the beatific vision.
1230. Does everyone do the will of God, so as to reach heaven?
No. As St. Peter told the first-century Christians, God is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish (2 Pet 3:9). The patience of God is demonstrated in His forbearance, in His tolerating our sins to allow us time to reform and do penance.
1231. What is the most fundamental commandment of the will of God?
It is the commandment He gave us at the Last Supper, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also should love one another (Jn 13:34). We may say that this commandment is a synthesis of all the other divine commandments, and tells us the whole divine will.
1232. Who has given us the perfect example of doing the will of God?
Jesus Christ. His human will was always conformed to the divine will of His Father. Christ alone could say, I always do what is pleasing to Him (Jn 8:29).
1233. Did Christ always find it easy to do His Fathers will?
No, as we know from His agony in the garden of Gethsemane, He prayed, if it were possible, that this chalice should pass from Me. Yet, not My will but Thine be done (Mt 26:39). So, we too must not expect doing Gods will to be always easy.
1234. Where do we get the strength to do Gods will?
From the merits of Christ. In the words of St. Paul, Jesus gave Himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father (Gal 1:4). Thus, through the merits of Christ, we are set free from the bondage of self-will and empowered to conform to the will of God.
1235. What, then, is our prayer?
Our prayer is to unite our will with the will of Christ so that, like Him, we might do the will of God.
1236. Are we powerless of ourselves, powerless to do Gods will?
Yes. We do have a free will, but without the grace that comes from Christ, we cannot do anything, of ourselves, to reach our heavenly destiny. That is why we need to pray. Through prayer, we are united with Jesus and empowered by His Holy Spirit to surrender our will. Thus, we are able to choose what the Son of God always chosenamely, to please the Father.
1237. What are we really asking for in this petition of the Lords Prayer?
We are asking to follow the teaching of Christ on many levels:
1238. How is the will of God done in heaven?
The will of God is done in heaven universally; everyone does the will of God. The will of God is done perfectly; there is no resistance to the will of God. The will of God is done distinctively; everyone does the divine will according to each persons capacity and variability. The will of God is done lovingly; there is no envy among the angels and saints, although each of the blessed differs in their response to Gods will. The will of God is done cooperatively; there is no competition in heaven but only generous and cooperative charity. The will of God is done joyfully; indeed this is the beatitude of heaven, that everyone wants to do the will of God and is supremely happy in doing so.
1239. What are the two essential graces for which we are praying in this petition?
They are the graces we need in the mind and the will.
1240. What is Christs warning about reaching heaven?
He tells us that no one enters the kingdom of Heaven by words, but, as He says, by doing the will of my Father Who is in heaven (Mt 7:21). Thus we are being told that, while prayer is indispensable to obtain the grace of God, we must then cooperate with this grace if we wish to reach our heavenly destiny.
1241. Are we sure that God listens to our prayer for His grace?
Yes, but on one condition. As recorded in St. Johns Gospel, If anyone does the will of God, God listens to him (Jn 9:31). Our prayer for grace is listened to, provided we are sincerely doing the will of God.
1242. What is the most powerful prayer of petition we can offer to God?
It is the prayer in the Holy Eucharist, where the One to whom and with whom we are praying is the incarnate Son of God.
1243. With whom should we join our prayer of petition to do the will of God?
We should join our prayer with the intercession of Our Lady, the Mother of God.
1244. Are we here asking to do Gods will as Christ Himself is doing the will of His Father?
Yes, Jesus Christ is now in heaven perfectly conformed to the will of the Father. In the words of St. Augustine, we are here asking, Thy will be done in the Church as in our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, or in the Bride to whom He is espoused as in the Bridegroom who has accomplished the will of the Father (De Serm. Dom. 2, 6: Patrologia Latina 34, 1279).
IV. Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread
1245. What do we acknowledge in this petition?
We recognize the goodness of God, who makes His sun to rise on the good and the bad and sends rain on the just and the unjust.
1246. What do we express by praying, Give us this day our daily bread?
We express our solidarity with the whole human race. We pray to the Father of all people, uniting ourselves with their sufferings and needs.
1247. What are we saying by asking for our bread?
We show our trust in God, who gave us our life, that He will also provide for the material and spiritual nourishment we need to sustain this life.
1248. How is this petition our confidence in the providence of God?
It is not passivity but a childlike trust that cooperates with the providence of our Father. Its purpose is to relieve us of all anxious worry, as Jesus insisted in His Sermon on the Mount.
1249. What is Christs promise?
He promised that those who seek the kingdom and justice of God will receive everything else besides. As expressed by St. Cyprian, God owns everything. Nothing is wanting to the person who does not lack God (De Dom. Orat. 21: Patrologia Latina 4, 551C).
1250. What is our Christian responsibility toward those suffering from hunger?
We who pray are to put into practice our responsibility toward people in need. This refers not only to peoples personal needs but to the needs of the whole human family. This petition of the Lords Prayer cannot be isolated from the parallel of the poor Lazarus and the Last Judgment.
1251. What does this petition tell us about the practice of justice?
It tells us that Christs kingdom should reflect His Spirit. This means the institution of justice in personal, social, economic, and international relations. Never to be forgotten is that there are no just structures without people who want to be just.
1252. How does this petition reflect the first Beatitude?
The Beatitude promises blessedness to the poor in spirit. This is the virtue of sharing. We are called to communicate and share our material and spiritual goods, not from constraint but out of love. Thus, the abundance of some becomes the remedy to meet the needs of others.
1253. How important is saying grace at meals?
Very important. Christian families say grace at table to both ask God for the gift He is giving us and thank Him for the gift just received. There is no contradiction in this. No doubt the nourishment is the fruit of our labor. But we are to both pray and work. In the words of St. Ignatius Loyola, Pray as though everything depended on God and work as though everything depended on you.
1254. What is the specially Christian understanding of this petition?
It refers to hunger of spirit on two levels: hunger for the truth of Gods revealed Word and hunger for the Holy Eucharist.
1255. What, then, is the bread needed to satisfy the hunger for Gods truth?
It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As Christians, we have the duty to mobilize our efforts to proclaim the Good News of salvation to the poor. There is a famine on earth, not a famine for bread or a thirst for water but a famine for hearing the Word of God.
1256. What is the bread needed to satisfy the hunger for the Eucharist?
It is the spiritual hunger for receiving the Body of Christ in Holy Communion.
1257. What do the words this day mean in our asking God to give us this day our daily bread?
This day is the today of God. The bread for which we pray is mainly the bread of Gods truth and His Sons Body. We are therefore asking for the everlasting possession of divine truth and the communion with Jesus Christ in the eternal Eucharist of the heavenly kingdom.
1258. What, then, is the heavenly meaning of this petition of the Our Father?
It is a prayer for the coming of the Day of the Lord, anticipated in the Holy Eucharist. Thus, the daily Eucharist is a foretaste of the kingdom to come.
1259. How is Christ Himself this bread of heaven?
He is the bread who, sown in the Virgin, raised up in the flesh, molded in the Passion, baked in the oven of the tomb, kept in reserve in the Church and brought to our altars, provides the faithful each day with their heavenly nourishment (St. Peter Chrysologus, Sermo 67).
V. Forgive Us Our Trespasses As We Forgive Those Who Trespass against Us
1260. What is unique about this petition of the Lords Prayer?
It is unique in having a condition attached to receiving the request from God. No doubt, what we ask for is in the future, but this will be granted only if we fulfill the divine demand.
1261. What is the confession we make in this petition?
It is the admission that we have sinned. Like the Prodigal Son and the Publican, we recognize that we are sinners before God. Yet, even as we confess our misery, we profess our faith in His mercy.
1262. What are the grounds for our confidence of being forgiven?
We find the effective and unquestionable sign of our forgiveness in the sacraments of the Church.
1263. To what degree does Gods mercy penetrate our heart?
Only to the extent that we forgive those who offend us. Love, like the Body of Christ, is indivisible. We cannot love God, whom we do not see, unless we love our brother and sister whom we do see. If we refuse to pardon them, we close our hearts to the penetration of the Fathers mercy. In the confession of our sin, we open our heart to His grace. But this confession must include our readiness to forgive our offenders.
1264. How do we know this petition is specially important?
Because it is the only one to which Our Lord returns in His Sermon on the Mount and goes on to explain in detail.
1265. How difficult is it to live up to this petition?
It is not only difficult but impossible for human beings alone. But everything is possible to God (Lk 18:17).
1266. What is our model of this merciful forgiveness?
It is God our Father, revealing His mercy through His Son, Jesus Christ. His mercy toward us sinners is the pattern of our mercy to others; even as our mercy to them is a condition for Gods mercy to us.
1267. What kind of mercy are we to practice?
It must be deeply interior. Of ourselves, we cannot erase or forget the injury another causes us. But once we offer our heart to the Holy Spirit, He changes the injury into compassion and purifies our memory by transforming the offense into intercession.
1268. How does Christian prayer transfigure Christs disciples into reflections of their Master?
When Christian prayer extends to the forgiveness of our enemies. Moreover, forgiveness bears witness to the world that love is stronger than sin. This, in fact, is the great witness to Jesus that all the martyrs of the past and present have given to the world.
1269. What is the fundamental condition for reconciliation with God and among men?
The fundamental condition for reconciliation is forgiveness.
1270. In what sense are we always debtors?
We are always debtors because we owe everyone our love.
1271. What is the most beautiful sacrifice we can offer to God?
It is the sacrifice of our peaceful concord with one another. It is the community of all the faithful people united in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
VI. Lead Us Not into Temptation
1272. How does this petition go to the root of the preceding one?
It goes to the root because our sins are not coercive. We sin not because we are tempted but because we consent to the temptations.
1273. What are we really praying for in this sixth petition of the Our Father?
We are praying not to be allowed to enter into temptation that would lead us into sin.
1274. Does God tempt anyone?
No, God tempts no one to evil. On the contrary, He wants to free us from the evil of sin.
1275. Do we have to struggle to avoid sin?
Yes, there is within us the conflict between the flesh and the spirit. In this petition, we ask the Holy Spirit for discernment and strength.
1276. What is the first discernment for which we are praying?
We ask to distinguish between a trial that would help us grow in virtue and temptation that leads to sin and death.
1277. What is the second discernment for which we are praying?
We ask to further distinguish between being tempted and actually consenting to temptation. No matter how long, or strong, or pleasant a temptation, there is no sin unless the will freely gives in to the pleasure or satisfaction of the temptation. Moreover, the degree of guilt depends on the measure of voluntary consent to accepting or not resisting the temptation.
1278. What else are we asking for in this petition?
We ask for the light to recognize a temptation for what it is. Every temptation is attractive. Every temptation is alluring. What we need is the grace to unmask the lie of a temptation, to see it as attractive indeed, but seductive. Temptations, as we learn already from the Fall of Eve, are pleasant to the eyes and desirable, but in reality their fruit is death.
1279. Why does God allow us to be tempted?
Because He does not want to impose virtue. He wants us to live freely as human beings. Moreover, temptations reveal us to ourselves. They open our eyes to our sinful inclinations and inspire us with gratitude for the mercy of God.
1280. How does this petition imply a decision of the heart?
As Christ tells us, where our treasure is there our heart will also be. We must either resist or give in to a temptation, according to our predisposition of heart. If our heart is set on doing the will of God, we will resist the temptation. But if our heart is set on doing our own will, we shall consent to the temptation.
1281. Will God allow us to be tested beyond our strength?
No, He will never allow us to be tempted beyond our strength. He always provides the means not only for resisting a temptation but even for growing in virtue because of the temptation.
1282. What do we mean in saying that God always provides the means for overcoming temptations?
God always gives us the grace to pray for the light and strength needed to resist temptation.
1283. How did Jesus show us the necessity for prayer to overcome temptations?
He did so at the beginning and at the end of His public ministry.
Absolutely speaking, Christ did not have to pray, any more than, as God, He had to become man and die for our sins. But He prayed to teach us the absolute necessity of prayer in our struggle with temptation
1284. Is it only prayer that we need to overcome temptation?
No, besides prayer we must be constantly on our guard. In the Garden of Olives, Jesus told His disciples to watch and pray. Both vigilance and prayer are necessary.
1285. What is this vigilance that we need to gain victory over temptation?
It is a multiple vigilance, as all the masters of the spiritual life teach us.
1286. What is the one temptation we must specially pray to resist?
It is the last temptation of our life, the temptation to discouragement or even despair as we face eternity.
1287. Can this grace of final perseverance be merited by even a lifetime practice of virtue?
The Church tells us no. The grace of final perseverance must be prayed for. It is the fruit of prayer. It is this grace especially that we pray for in the Our Father when we ask the Lord, Lead us not into temptation. It is also this grace that we ask Our Lady to obtain for us when we say, at the close of the Hail Mary, Pray for us sinners at the hour of our death.
VII. Deliver Us from Evil
1288. What is the basic evil from which we ask to be delivered in the last petition of the Lords Prayer?
It is deliverance from the devil. Thus, the last petition of the Our Father is also part of Christs prayer at the Last Supper. Jesus prayed to his Father, I am not asking You to take them out of the world, but I ask You to protect them from the Evil One (Jn 17:15).
1289. For whom are we praying in this petition?
We are praying as believing Christians, therefore in solidarity with the whole Church; we are also praying for the whole family of mankind.
1290. Are we here asking to be delivered from an abstract evil?
By no means. We pray to be liberated from a person. He is variously called Satan, the Evil One, or the devil, which literally means the one who throws himself across the plan of God and His work of salvation fulfilled in Christ. The devil is the angel opposed to God.
1291. What are some of the names in Scripture by which the devil is identified?
He is a murderer from the beginning. He is a liar and the father of lies. He is the deceiver of the whole world. These names bring out the fundamental malice of the devil; he sows the seeds of error in peoples minds and thus brings them to ruin. The devils chief weapon, therefore, is deceit. Through deceit, he destroys divine life in human souls and thus murders their supernatural life.
1292. Who first brought sin and death into the world?
It was the devil who seduced Eve, who in turn persuaded Adam to join her in disobeying God. That is how sin first entered the human race. Through the Fall of Adam and Eve, all human beings are conceived estranged from God. Through original sin, they are also deprived of the bodily immortality they would have had if our first parents had remained faithful to the Lord.
1293. What is one of the principal effects of Baptism?
In the teaching of St. John, those who are born of God are specially protected from the Evil One. Sanctifying grace shields them in an extraordinary way from the malice of Satan.
1294. Can we say that the whole world lies under the power of the devil?
Yes, this again is the teaching of St. John, who writes, We know that we are Gods children, and that the whole world lies under the power of the Evil One (1 Jn 5:19). So true is this, that one of the major heresies in early Christianity claimed that the devil is a god who created an evil world.
1295. What should be our attitude toward the devil?
We should implicitly trust in God. This is beautifully expressed by St. Ambrose, who lived in the period when the heresy just described was seducing so many people. The Lord, wrote Ambrose, who has taken away your sin and pardoned your faults is the same who protects you and guards you against the wiles of the devil who is attacking you. This is so that the enemy, who is used to seducing into sin, may not overcome you. The one who entrusts himself to God is not afraid of the demon. If God is for us, who can be against us? (De Sacr. 5, 4, 30: Patrologia Latina 16, 454).
1296. When was the victory won over the ruler of this world?
It took place when Jesus freely gave up His life for us on Calvary.
1297. How did the devil react?
As described by St. John in the Apocalypse, the devil saw that he had been cast out. So he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. But he had no hold on her. Then the dragon was angry with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her children (Rev 12: 11-17).
The Church interprets this symbolic language as referring to the devils opposition to Mary, who was protected from sin by her immaculate conception and spared bodily corruption by her assumption. The devil never ceases opposing Marys children, who are believers in her divine Son, but Christs coming at the end of time will finally deliver them from all molestation by the Evil One.
1298. Is it only deliverance from the devil for which we are praying?
No, we ask God to deliver us from all evils, present, past, and future, whose author or instigator is the devil. In this petition, the Church brings before the Father all the distress of the world.
1299. Do we ask for deliverance from the absolute evil of eternal death?
Yes, the Church prays with emphasis for the precious gift of peaceful expectation of Christs return and of perseverance in His grace until He comes.
Chapter Four: The Final Doxology
Since the first century of the Christian era, the Churchs liturgy has included an addition to the Lords Prayer that we call the Final Doxology. Literally, this means the closing prayer of praise.
1300. What is the text of this Final doxology?
Addressing God, it says, For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory.
1301. What do these three praises express?
They express the first three precepts of the Lords Prayer, namely:
1302. How do these three praises differ from the three petitions?
They differ as heaven differs from earth. In the Lords Prayer, we are asking that Gods name be glorified, that His kingdom come, and the power of His saving will be accomplished. But in the Doxology, we assume that all these prayers will have been fulfilled with Christs final triumph in a heavenly eternity. Consequently, what are petitions in the Our Father become acts of praise and thanksgiving in the Final Doxology.
1303. How does the Final Doxology glorify Christ over the prince of this world?
The devil, as ruler of this world, falsely attributes to himself the three titles to kingship, power, and glory. These titles, by divine right, belong to God. At the end of time, Christ will have overcome the demonic usurper and restore these titles to His Father and our Father. Then the mystery of salvation will be completed and God will be all in all.
1304. How does the devil exercise these three attributes in the world?
He does so by usurping political control in civil societies. Over the centuries he has penetrated the State, where those in civil authority arrogate to themselves rights that are in conflict with the rights of God.
1305. What is the meaning of Amen, at the close of the Lords Prayer?
It literally means, So be it.
1306. Why do we say Amen?
The Amen is our countersignature, so to speak, to everything that God has taught us in the Lords Prayer. It is our acceptance by faith, testifying that we believe with our minds. It is also our agreement in love to conform our wills to what Christ in the Our Father tells us to pray.
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