Our Father who are in Heaven.
This is the preface of the Lord’s Prayer, which aims at captivating Gods goodwill, and on disposing the suppliant to love and fear, the most suitable affections for prayer.
For if He is a Father, is He not worthy of love? But what kind of love? for our love to Him should be measured by the extent of His goodness.
But what is the extent of our Eternal Father’s goodness? God is in Himself supremely happy, He is the creator of heaven and earth, our Lord and King, and yet He desires to be, and to be esteemed, our Father; and He delights for us in turn, vile worms of the earth and miserable sinners as we are, unworthy to be called His servants, to be, and to be called, His sons. Oh, what love has the Father bestowed upon us, that we should be called, and be, the sons of God! O immeasurable goodness of the Father! But where is the equal love of the sons?
Consider too what fear is due to this Father, who is seated on the throne of His majesty in heaven, yet is everywhere present, beholding severally each secret thing, and governs at once all things in heaven and earth? Great in absolute truth is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and of His power and greatness there is no end. The cherubim and seraphim stand trembling before Him.
See, then, with what love and confidence, and yet with what humility and reverence, You ought to compose Your mind when You come to pray.
Next come seven petitions, in which we partly pray for blessings, and partly entreat to be delivered from evils. For, by prayer we make known our desires, so in the Lord’s Prayer we ask for those things which we may lawfully desire. Now, that which is the first object of desire is the chief good, or last end. We ask next for the means which are proper for obtaining this end. And, lastly, for the removal of those obstacles which stand in the way of our obtaining it.
Lastly, the chief good, and our final end, is God, whose glory we desire for its own sake, and from the sole motive of pure love, in saying,
Hallowed be Your name.
That is to say, May Your name, which is most holy and glorious in itself, be also thus, esteemed by all. May it be acknowledged by true faith, praised by steadfast hope, and worshipped by pure love. Not that our aid is needed for Your name to be holy; but because it is holy and glorious, and therefore the source and form of all holiness, let the holiness of our conduct declare it so. Let all our actions and behavior be so framed, that they who see our conversation and the works that we do, may glorify You, our Father in heaven.
Let this be fixed in our heart, frequent in our mouth, and acceptable in our work:
HALLOWED BE YOUR NAME.
Here is a most easy exercise of purity of intention, to be practiced frequently during the day.
After this primary desire, the next is that of the glory of God relatively to ourselves, that we may enjoy it as our highest good. And this affection takes its birth from the love of God, since by it we love ourselves in God; thence we pray,
Your kingdom come
We ask this, O Lord, because we are here, strangers and exiles from our country, shut out from the sweetest presence of our dear Father, and overloaded with the heavy yoke of the prince of this world. Make us to pant after You in heaven with our whole heart. Permit us not to love the world or the things that are in the world, but to have a taste for and to seek the things that are above. But when the end of our pilgrimage on earth has come, make us to despise with a calm and joyful mind this kingdom of the world and all its pomp’s, and seek the kingdom that is above with an ardent desire; that so we may find with joy that inheritance which has been prepared for us from the beginning of the world, where You will grant us to enjoy You, and with Your eternal glory forever.
Now to obtain the Supreme Good, we have need of some other goods besides, as means and props. Of these, obedience to the commands of God is the chief. For He who does not do His will, is not ft for the kingdom of God; and He who does not keep the commandments, does not merit the privilege to enter into life. But without His aid who commands us, how shall we be able to keep them? Thus, we rightly pray,
Your will be done.
For You, O Lord, know that, because the flesh is weak, prone to evil, and wars against the Holy Spirit, our spirit, though ready, does not find the means to do Your will. For the body, which is corrupted, weighs down the mind, so that from His youth man’s senses are almost always more violently inclined to evil than to good. And it is that we often do not know what to pray for, or how to pray, or what is best for us. But You know this most perfectly, because You know all things. Make us to know what You would have us to do, and so direct our wills by Your efficient grace according to the good pleasure of Your will, that we may both will what You will, and perform cheerfully what You command. Give us grace to do what you command, and command what You deem best.
But that a man may more promptly perform the commands of God, it is also necessary that he should not be altogether destitute of the goods and provisions of this present life. For we are subject to various ills and necessities as long as we are here in this mortal body. Therefore, we make the petition,
Give us this day our daily bread.
Will You, that is, who opens Your hand, and fills with blessing every living creature; who feeds the young ravens, and does not neglect the birds of the air, but tenderly watches over and feeds them — will You abandon man to want? Man, whom You have created in Your own image, and by Your most precious blood have made an heir of heaven? We do not ask for what may serve to be luxury and pleasure, but for food and the supply of our necessities, that we may not be drawn away from Your service by the cares and anxieties of the world. And that we may have strength to serve You, both in mind and body, feed our souls also with the food of Your word. And above all, strengthen us in the wilderness of this life with the heavenly bread of Angels, that we do not faint in the way we are travelling to You, until we feast with You in Your kingdom.
Here, then, we have the order, the end, and the Author, of the temporal blessings we are to seek.
In the following petitions we pray for the removal of the evils, or hindrances, which impede the attainment of the end. They are chiefly three.
First, the commission of sin; for since in many things we all offend, we ought humbly and frequently to implore the forgiveness of our sins. But it is in vain for him to ask mercy of the Lord, who will not, when he might, show mercy to his neighbor. Bearing this in mind, we rightly use this form of prayer,
Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us.
In many things, alas, we all daily offend. Lord, we perish, unless, according to Your great mercy, You preserve us. But we know, too, that if a man treasures up anger against His neighbor, in vain He seeks succor from You. I pardon, therefore, from my heart all my enemies, and, out of my love for You, I am ready to do good to those who hate me, or who have ever injured me. I am sorry, from the bottom of my heart, that I have offended You. O Lord, be merciful to my sins.
This is a most easy and excellent method of making frequently an act of contrition.
Another hindrance is temptation, which urges us to sin, and hinders us from following the Divine will. Hence one who is freed from past sins, both dreads and seeks to avoid those which are future. But who can fly from them without the help of God? Therefore, from the knowledge we have of our own weakness, and of the power of so many enemies, to whom our life is always exposed, we pray,
And lead us not into temptation.
We acknowledge, O Lord, that without You we can do nothing, and that all our sufficiency is of You; do not let Your grace desert us, nor permit us to be driven back, and beaten down by any temptation of the world, the flesh, or the devil. You see our frailty, and the great power and craft of those who tempt Your creatures, so dearly redeemed. We do not doubt that all things are brought about by the loving counsel of Your providence; and that not to suffer, but to be conquered by temptation, is evil. Suffer us not, then, O Lord, to be tempted beyond what we are able, lest perchance we fail under the temptation, but help us to overcome it. But let Your grace prosper us, and the victory will be easy.
Another hindrance is the punishment we often meet with when freed from guilt. The many adversities of this life, as famine, wars, diseases, loss of property, reputation, life, sometimes affects severely even the most pious minds. So that we have cause finally to pray,
But deliver us from evil.
That which our feelings incline us to think evil, is not so in reality, and in itself, unless it is made so through our fault. For from You, O Lord, proceed all things, whether life or death, honor or poverty; how, then, can they be evil, when they proceed from the Highest Good? These, however, become evil, not unfrequently, through our fault, that is to say, through our impatience, cowardice, and mistrust. Strengthen us, then, with Your grace and comfort, and make all things work together for good to those that love You. Here cut and burn me, as a physician the patient who draws His last hope of life from these remedies, However severe. Here correct and chastise me, as a father the son for whom the inheritance is reserved. Nay, more, prove, and try, and purify me, as a refiner the gold which is proved in the fire. Harden me, as a potter must be seasoned for a time before the vessel is useful for what it is destined. (From The Paradise of the Christian Soul)
FFWith these, and similar meditations, the Lord’s Prayer must be seasoned from time to time; otherwise, what wonder if by frequent use it is often uttered with the lips, but seldom relished in the heart.