Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, Religious

The Lord’s prayer is not just a formula.  Indeed, Jesus Himself just finished rebuking those who multiply their words thinking that sheer quantity is what will get them a hearing before God.  The Lord’s prayer is truly prayed by a heart that has allowed itself to resonate profoundly with the different sentiments and petitions contained therein.  So the first step in learning how to pray the Lord’s prayer is actually understanding what each of the lines means:

“Our Father” – Our God is not Master, nor is He Judge, nor is He Supervisor or Babysitter.  Our God is not Mother, nor is He Friend or Buddy.  Fatherhood is a relationship to a being from whom we have received life, and so long as a man continues to give life he is truly a father.  The life that God the Father gives us is something we call Grace, that Grace is nothing less than a share in His own Life.  We continue to receive that grace to the extent that we allow God to exercise His Fatherhood upon us.  The first statement of the Lord’s prayer takes us immediately to the core of Christianity.  Our God is the True Father.

“Hallowed be thy name” – We don’t need to make God’s name Holy as though it wouldn’t be without our help.  We do, on the other hand, need to lift our hearts into worship of what is truly sacred.  Our hearts are lost until they rest in the sacredness of the name of our God and Father.

“Our Daily Bread” – This is our dependence on God’s providence, but it is also His Word and the Eucharist.

“As we forgive…” – Jesus teaches us that the forgiveness we show to others is the same forgiveness we can expect to receive.

“Deliver us from the evil one”  – We cannot overcome the snares of the Devil on our own.  We have an enemy, and if we refuse to recognize his existence or potency, we will most certainly succumb to his snares.  While the Devil wields great power over us, he is utterly powerless and defeated before God.  Jesus would have us invoke His Name so that we may share in His victory over Satan.


If we understand what it means to be subject to Christ, especially in light of the passage, “And when everything is subject, he also, the Son, will subject himself to him who made everything subject to him,” then we will understand the lamb of God who takes on himself the sin of the world in a way worthy of the goodness of the God of the universe. And yet the lamb does not take on himself the sins of all, if they do not suffer and experience torment until their sins are taken from them. There are in fact thorns that are not merely loose but firmly stuck in the hands of whoever is so drunk with vice as to even forget the state of sobriety, as it says in Proverbs, “Thorns are hidden in the hands of a drunkard.” Must we spend words describing what troubles such implanted evils cause to the one who accepts them in the body of his soul? One who has accepted moral evil so deeply in his soul as to become a land that produces thorns needs to be deeply cut by the living Logos of God, which is “effective and sharper than any two-edged sword,” hotter than any fire. Into a soul reduced to this state, that fire must be sent that is capable of finding the thorns and getting at them in virtue of its divinity, without setting fire to the stems and ears of the fields. Many are the ways in which the Lamb of God takes away the sins of the world, in the first place through the sacrifice of himself. Some of these ways can be shown to the many, while others are hidden to them and known only to those considered worthy of the divine wisdom.1


What does Elijah symbolize here but our head, that is, the Lord our Redeemer, and Elisha his body, which is the church?3 Elijah, then, gives the occasion to ask, because in the Gospel it says, “Ask, and it will be given you.”4 And also, “Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”5 Having received this assurance from the Lord, Elisha, that is, the Christian people, asks that the spirit of Christ be doubled in him, which is to say, a double grace of the Holy Spirit, for the remission of sins and for the conferral of virtue.2


When the priests of Baal called on their gods through immolated sacrifices, Elijah said in mockery, “Shout, shout strongly: perhaps your gods are sleeping.” In the same way the person who prolongs his prayer with a lot of talk rails at God, as if he were sleeping.3


But if he already knows what we need, why do we pray? Not to inform God or instruct him but to beseech him closely, to be made intimate with him, by continuance in supplication; to be humbled; to be reminded of our sins.4


Your Father knows what is necessary for you before you ask him. If he knows what we want ahead of time, then we do not pray to demand from God what we want but that it may please him to bestow what we need. God is to be conciliated, not taught; a long prayer is not needful for him but a genuine spirit.5


In addressing him as Father we are also naming him God, so as to combine in a single term both filial love and power. Addressing the Father, the Son is also being addressed, for Christ said, “I and the Father are one.” Nor is Mother Church passed over without mention, for the mother is recognized in the Son and the Father, as it is within the church that we learn the meaning of the terms Father and Son.6


If you believe yourself to be a son of God, seek those things that are advantageous for you to receive and that it behooves him to bestow.7


It is not written that “the Lord is closer to tall people” or “nearer to those who live on higher hills.” For it is written, “The Lord is near to the broken-hearted and saves the crushed in spirit,” namely, close to those who are humble.8


By inward prayer the inequality of human things is thwarted. It shows how nearly equal are the king and the poor person in all those matters that are most indispensable and of greatest weight. Behind those closed doors before God, we are all equals.9


We pray “Hallowed be thy name,” not that we wish that God may be made holy by our prayers but that his name may be hallowed in us.10


So one who prays for the coming of the kingdom of God rightly prays that the kingdom of God might be established in himself, that it might bear fruit and be perfected in himself. Every saint, being ruled by God as king and obedient to the spiritual laws of God, as it were, dwells within this kingdom as in a well-ordered city. The Father is present to such a one, and Christ reigns with the Father in the soul that is maturing. This is in accord with the promise that “we will come to him and make our abode with him.”11


Now, what does God will more than that we ourselves walk according to his ways? We ask therefore that he supply us with the energy of his own will and the capacity to do it, that we may be saved, both in heaven and on earth. The sum of his will is the salvation of those whom he has adopted.12


For even as people cannot do good without God’s help, neither does God will to do good in people unless they will to let him.13


  1. COMMENTARY ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN 6.57–58.  Voicu, S. J. (Ed.). (2010). Apocrypha (p. 400). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  2. ON ECCLESIASTICUS 10.18.  Voicu, S. J. (Ed.). (2010). Apocrypha (p. 401). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  3. INCOMPLETE WORK ON MATTHEW, HOMILY 13.  Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2001). Matthew 1–13 (p. 129). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  4. THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW, HOMILY 19.4.  Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2001). Matthew 1–13 (p. 129). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  5. INCOMPLETE WORK ON MATTHEW, HOMILY 13.  Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2001). Matthew 1–13 (p. 129). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  6. ON PRAYER 2.2–6.  Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2001). Matthew 1–13 (p. 131). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  7. INCOMPLETE WORK ON MATTHEW, HOMILY 14.  Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2001). Matthew 1–13 (p. 132). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  8. SERMON ON THE MOUNT 2.5.17.  Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2001). Matthew 1–13 (p. 132). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  9. THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW, HOMILY 19.4.  Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2001). Matthew 1–13 (p. 132). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  10. TREATISES, ON THE LORD’S PRAYER 12.  Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2001). Matthew 1–13 (p. 132). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  11. ON PRAYER 25.1.  Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2001). Matthew 1–13 (p. 133). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  12. ON PRAYER 4.1–2.  Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2001). Matthew 1–13 (p. 134). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  13. INCOMPLETE WORK ON MATTHEW, HOMILY 14.  Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2001). Matthew 1–13 (pp. 134–135). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
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