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The “Our Father” – The Lord’s Prayer
The most perfect of prayers
St Augustine, “Letter to Proba” – Chapter 12
22. For whatever other words we may say—whether the desire of the person praying go before the words, and employ them in order to give definite form to its requests, or come after them, and concentrate attention upon them, that it may increase in fervour—if we pray rightly, and as becomes our wants, we say nothing but what is already contained in the Lord's Prayer. And whoever says in prayer anything which cannot find its place in that gospel prayer, is praying in a way which, if it be not unlawful, is at least not spiritual; and I know not how carnal prayers can be lawful, since it becomes those who are born again by the Spirit to pray in no other way than spiritually.
… And if you go over all the words of holy prayers, you will, I believe, find nothing which cannot be comprised and summed up in the petitions of the Lord's Prayer. Wherefore, in praying, we are free to use different words to any extent, but we must ask the same things; in this we have no choice.
CCC 2761 – “The Lord’s prayer ‘is truly the summary of the whole gospel.’” (Tertullian)
CCC 2763 – “The Lord’s prayer is the most perfect of prayers … In it we ask not only for all the things that 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.” (St Thomas)
“At the Savior’s command and formed by divine teaching, we dare to say:”
CCC 2775 – “It is called ‘the Lord’s Prayer’ because it comes to us from the Lord Jesus, the master and model of our prayer.”
CCC 2777 – “Our awareness of our status as slaves would make us sink into the ground and our earthly condition would dissolve into dust, if the authority of our Father himself and the Spirit of his Son had not impelled us to this cry … ‘Abba, Father!’ … When would a mortal dare call God ‘Father,’ if man’s innermost being were not animated by power from on high?” (St Peter Chrysologus)
Consider, who is speaking, and to whom we speak.
“You have a good Father, for He gives you the good Jesus. Let no one in this house speak of any other father but Him. And strive, my daughters, so to behave that you will deserve to find your delight in Him; and cast yourselves into His arms.” (St Teresa of Avila, Way of Perfection 27)
We are children by adoption.
“Who art in heaven”
“This prayer is called ‘recollection,’ because the soul collects its faculties together and enters within itself to be with its God. And its divine Master comes more quickly to teach it and give it the prayer of quiet than He would through any other method it might use. … Those who by such a method can enclose themselves within this little heaven of our soul, where the Maker of heaven and earth is present, and grow accustomed to refusing to be where the exterior senses in their distraction have gone or look in that direction should believe they are following an excellent path and that they will not fail to drink water from the fount; for they will journey far in a short time.” (Way 28)
“I consider it impossible for us to pay so much attention to worldly things if we take the care to remember we have a Guest such as this within us, for we then see how lowly these things are next to what we possess within ourselves.” (Way 28)
“You will laugh at me, perhaps, and say that what I’m explaining is very clear, and you’ll be right; for me, though, it was obscure for some time. I understood well that I had a soul. But what this soul deserved and who dwelt within it I did not understand because I had covered my eyes with the vanities of the world. For, in my opinion, if I had understood as I do now that in this little palace of my soul dwelt so great a King, I would not have left Him alone so often. I would have remained with Him at times and striven more so as not to be so unclean.” (Way 28)
“For indeed, we have heaven within ourselves since the Lord of heaven is there.” (Way 29)
“If you speak, strive to remember that the One with whom you are speaking is present within. If you listen, remember that you are going to hear One who is very close to you when He speaks. In sum, bear in mind that you can, if you want, avoid ever withdrawing from such good company; and be sorry that for a long time you left your Father alone, of whom you are so much in need.” (Way 29)