Why is the “Our Father” a prayer of perfect and unselfish love?

Mission Lab

The “Our Father” is a prayer of perfect and unselfish love because it is the prayer that God’s Incarnate Son taught us. In saying the Our Father, we offer ourselves entirely to the Father and ask Him for the best things, not only for ourselves, but also for our neighbor. The Our Father summarizes the entire Gospel and praying it brings us into communion with Jesus Christ, His Son.

God the Father wants to give us the graces that will enable us to carry out His will and plan, His New Covenant with us for our Salvation and divine adoption. The Lord’s prayer contains seven petitions which ask for the graces necessary for our Salvation and that the gifts given to us in Baptism will grow and develop. The first three petitions remind us of God’s glory and are directed in hope toward the fulfillment of God’s plan of Salvation in Christ Jesus. The last four petitions draw on God’s mercy and love and ask for His grace to nourish, heal and protect us. Each petition is a prayer not only for the good explicitly asked for, but also for the grace we need to bring about this requested good.

This prayer begins by invoking God as our Father.

Our Father, Who art in Heaven. God is our last end. To possess Him on earth, and someday in Heaven, is our true happiness. To possess Him, we must have childlike trust and love. We address God as Father because Jesus has revealed Him to us and taught His disciples to pray in this way. By addressing God as our Father, we pray not only for ourselves but for all mankind. “Heaven” referred to here is the Heaven of the hearts of the just, hearts that are a temple in which God dwells (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church 2794).

Hallowed be Thy name. We hallow God’s name by showing reverence to God and to each other and by living our lives as God’s loving children. We pray that everyone will come to know of God’s holiness and goodness and for mankind’s sanctification.

To help us come to know and believe in God and all that He has revealed, we ask for an increase in the gift of knowledge and the infused virtue of faith. Only then can we hallow and praise God and His Name—by our words, songs, and hymns, etc., by our deeds and lives of obedience to the Faith, and by our witness to the Gospel.

Thy Kingdom come. Since love seeks intimate union, we ought to desire that God should rule more and more both our minds and hearts. God’s Kingdom is in our midst now in the Eucharist and in our hearts and minds. Yet, we await with longing the coming of God’s Kingdom, when Christ shall come again. We pray that we can be instruments of the Holy Spirit to complete God’s work on earth and hasten the coming of our Lord in glory.

To become effective instruments of the Holy Spirit, we ask, especially, for an increase in the gift of understanding and the infused virtue of hope. These supernatural gifts enable us to understand what God is asking of us and give us the power to make firm commitments in fulfilling the work that God gives
us to do.

Thy Will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. United with Jesus’ perfect obedience to the Father, we pray for the grace to surrender our wills to Him so that His loving plan for our and our neighbor’s Salvation can come to fulfillment. We ask the Father to help us do His holy will in all things, as His will is accomplished by the Blessed Virgin Mary and the angels and saints in Heaven. This life in Heaven is a model of perfect union between Creator and creature.

For God’s will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven, we especially ask for an increase in the gift of piety and the infused virtue of charity. These supernatural gifts enable us to see and understand our identity in, through, and for Jesus so that we desire to do what God wants and to love Him, ourselves, and one another with a deep, unselfish love.

Give us this day our daily bread. In this petition, we acknowledge the goodness of God and pray for the material and spiritual needs of ourselves and our neighbor.

There are three kinds of “bread” referred to in this petition. The first and most obvious is the material bread that nourishes our bodies. The second is the bread of Truth and of the knowledge of God’s will. As Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4), and, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me” (John 4:34). Finally, there is the divine Bread of the Eucharist.

We especially ask for an increase in the gift of Wisdom and the infused virtue of prudence. Wisdom enables us to discern God’s will, to nourish ourselves with the truths revealed by God, and to appreciate the reality of our need for the true Bread from Heaven, the Flesh of Jesus in the Eucharist.

Supernatural prudence helps us to plan means for supporting ourselves and our dependents, arrange effective ways and means for carrying out God’s will, and arrange our lives so that we receive the sacraments often, attend Mass, and adore Jesus truly present in the Eucharist.

Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. In this petition, we admit we are sinners. We pray for God’s forgiveness and mercy and for His grace to help us grow in holiness. Jesus teaches us that in order to be forgiven, we must forgive those who have hurt us, just as the Father has forgiven us.

To obtain the light and the power we need to recognize our own sins, to forgive ourselves and others, and to make reparation for sin, we especially ask for an increase in the gift of counsel and the infused virtue of justice.

Lead us not into temptation. St. James says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one; but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire” (James 1:13–14). When our desire finds joy in that which displeases God or when we feel aversion to that which God wills, we fall into temptation. In this petition of the Lord’s Prayer, we unite ourselves with Jesus and ask God for the grace to recognize and resist temptation and for the strength to be vigilant and to choose the way that leads to everlasting life.

We especially ask for the light and the power of the gift of fear of the Lord and the infused virtue of temperance. These supernatural gifts enable us to control our minds and imaginations so we can focus our emotions of delight, desire, and joy on what pleases God, and our emotions of dismay, aversion, and sorrow on what displeases God.

But deliver us from evil. In this petition, we entrust ourselves and the whole human family to our loving Father and implore His protection and deliverance from Satan and all evils. We pray for peace and for perseverance as we await Christ’s return.

We especially ask for the light and the power of the gift of fortitude and the infused virtue of fortitude. These supernatural gifts enable us to fill our minds and imaginations with images of Jesus, Mary, and the saints so that we can perseveringly focus our emotions of courage, trusting commitment, and enthusiasm on what God wants us to do, and focus our emotions of fear, despair, and anger on sin, false hopes, and all that is opposed to God’s Kingdom.