24 Oct The Our Father Prayer Explained – Fr. Joseph Edattu VC
A talk by Fr Joseph Edattu, VC based on Matthew 6: 7-15. The Our Father Prayer
In Matt. 6:7 we read, “When you are praying…” What does it mean? It is understood that you should be praying, so God does not say “if you are praying” but “when you are praying.” So, “when you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard because of their many words.”
In our prayer life, one thing we need to understand is that, it is not because of the language we use that the LORD listens to our prayer; it is not because of the amount of words we use that the LORD listens to our prayer; it is not because of any of our performance that God listens to our prayer. Many people think that by praying so many times, say one hundred Rosaries or a thousand Rosaries, a thousand Hail Mary’s—that by counting like this, we will be heard.
The repeating prayer has its own effect. It is not that the LORD will only hear our prayers if we repeat them. The LORD has already heard our prayers. The LORD knows all our prayers. But when we repeat the prayer something happens. It purifies our body mind and soul. So when we are praying, we should not think that it is because of all this hard work we are doing that the LORD is listening and blessing us. That will be the wrong impression. No, we did not do any hard work to get the blessing! Jesus did everything so that we may be blessed, and our hard work is useless.
Saying so many prayers doesn’t make God listen to our prayers. All the prayers that we say only purify us. They don’t make God hear us, because we don’t need to make God hear us. God already heard us two thousand years ago. Through the death of Jesus on Mount Calvary, our prayers are heard. All our prayers are heard two thousand years ago. All the blessings which we need, God has already showered on us two thousand years ago.
In Jesus, the Father is already pleased with us
So, what are we supposed to do now? We just need to change ourselves. Don’t try to change God. Many think that through so many prayers, so many fasting and activities that, they can influence God. We cannot influence God. We are all weak and fragile and sinners. We can’t influence God and we don’t need to influence God, because Jesus already influenced God the Father on our behalf. God has already opened the door of heaven. Jesus opened it on our behalf. Jesus did everything. Jesus pleased the Heavenly Father. We don’t need to please Him any more. In Jesus Christ, God the Father is already pleased with us.
What we need to do in every prayer is to join with Jesus, pray like Jesus, do like Jesus, live like Jesus, and do everything in Jesus’ name, along with Jesus. In the similar way singers sound more beautiful and anointed when singing together, how much more beautiful and powerful when we offer our prayers through Jesus. And so, all our prayers should be raised to heaven through Jesus Christ, because Jesus already offered a pleasing sacrifice in front of the Heavenly Father. That is why in the Holy Missal, at the end of every prayer it is written, “we make this prayer through Christ our Lord.” This is very important; we make all the prayers through Christ our Lord.
Therefore, always remember that it is not because of the quantity of words that we spoke or the quality of language that we used when we prayed that our prayers are heard. Our prayers are heard because of the death of Jesus on Mount Calvary. It is because of this that all the blessings are given to us.
So then, why do we need to pray? Why do we need to repeat the prayers? Why do we need to
Fast? All the fasting, all the prayers, every repetition of prayer cleanses us. It is not changing God, it is changing us. It is changing me. The time I spend in the presence of God, the prayers that I repeat, the Bible reading, fasting, penances; all these things will change me. That is why Jesus said in Matthew 6:7-8, “When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”
Don’t ask. Thank!
Before you pray, your Father knows what you need. Therefore, what are we supposed to pray? Don’t waste your time asking God, “Give me this.” “Give me that.” This, God knows. We need to pray for the purpose of changing ourselves, purifying ourselves. How is it possible? An earlier talk by Fr. Joseph explains that the most effective prayer, the best way to pray, is thanksgiving—just continuously praising and thanking God the Father for what He has done in our lives.
Jesus used the same method of prayer. Even before His prayers were heard Jesus said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. When he raised Lazarus from death, the raising from death happened after the prayer, but Jesus prayed as if it had already happened. Jesus said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me and raised Lazarus,” even when Lazarus was still in the tomb. After the prayer, Jesus said, “Lazarus come out!” so Lazarus came out.
Our prayers should be like this—thanking God for all the blessings, as if God has already blessed us completely. We should go on thanking God. That is why Jesus said that the Father knows everything we need. So what we need to do is not ask Him, but thank Him. That is why Jesus said, in Matthew 6:9, “Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” He is teaching us how to pray. He didn’t say “Pray this prayer” but “Pray in this way.” There is a difference. Jesus is not giving us some words and saying “you have to make sure this is the only prayer you pray.” No! What Jesus gave is the methodology of the prayer.
This is the methodology that we should adapt in our prayer life. The LORD says that the first priority should be given to the Father—“Our father in heaven, hallowed be your name.”—giving honor and glory and worship to the Heavenly Father. But instead when we pray, we say, “Jesus, bless me, bless my family, bless my children, bless my husband, bless me and give me a job, give me this, give me that…” This is how we start praying early in the morning. We get up and say, “Lord, bless me. Protect me in this day.” In the evening we say, “Lord, bless me and give me good sleep.” All the prayers are centered around ourselves. We give the priority to ourselves, and then if there is any balance, to others.
But Jesus said, use this methodology in your prayer; the first priority is for God. Give all glory and honor to the Heavenly Father. Pray in this way: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:9-10). This is the first priority. In every worship, in every prayer, we should come together and say, “LORD, we thank you, we praise you, we worship you.” This is what we need to do; to just go on worshiping God, giving all glory and honor to Him. No more asking. Prayer means asking. Worship means giving glory. We need to go on giving glory and honor to Abba Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. That is why during the Divine Ministries UK online adoration, most of the time is spent on worship—singing, glorifying God, thanking God, praising God, giving all glory to God, because that is the methodology the LORD Jesus has taught us.
Therefore, give all glory and honor and praise and worship—everything—to God. That is why the whole first paragraph of the Our Father prayer is “Our Father in heaven…”
Comfortable in the presence of Our Father
When you pray, remember that you are not a citizen crying out to the king. You are not some people of God crying out to God. You are not slaves who are crying out to the master; but you are children calling out to the Father. There is a difference between all these. The relationship between father and child is entirely different from that between master and slave, God and people, or even king and citizens. A relationship between a father and child is deeper, more powerful. There is freedom.
When we go to a king’s house, we will have lots of restrictions. We will always be frightened. How should we behave? Suppose we visit Buckingham Palace to meet the queen; we will have to follow lots of protocol and restrictions. All these restrictions make us feel so scared. Similarly, if we go to a heavenly place to visit our God, we will experience a lot of fear inside. We will be scared to do anything because we are in front of the Almighty God. If we are slaves and we are visiting our master, we will also be so scared because the master can get angry anytime and punish us, therefore it is a scary experience to visit a master.
But just imagine if you are going to meet your dad or mom; what will be your feeling? Full freedom! You don’t need to be scared, you don’t need to be worried, you don’t need to follow any protocol. You don’t need to worry about any procedure or any strategy or anything. You just go freely, relax in your dad or mom’s presence, and say whatever you want to say. This is exactly the same attitude we should have when we pray. When we pray, we are praying in front of a heavenly father. That is why Jesus said, use this methodology when you pray: “Our Father in heaven…” The only difference is that I am here on earth and my Father is in heaven.
But it may be that you don’t have an experience of a loving father here on earth and that is okay, you have a loving Father in heaven who loves you beyond your expectations and who you can go to without any fear. And if you do have an experience of a loving father, remember that is exactly what we are supposed to feel in the presence of a Heavenly Father, but much more. So Jesus said, use this methodology when you pray.
The moment you come into the presence of God, remember this is the most comfortable place. Many people, when they come to the church, the way they sit, the way they move around, is as if they are in the most horrible place. They are sorrowful, not happy. They are always looking at their watch, hoping that Mass will end as soon as possible so they can escape, because they are not feeling comfortable in the presence of God. That means they don’t understand that this is the safest, most comfortable and perfect place, where you can be at ease because you are in the presence of the Heavenly Father.
God’s will on earth
In Matthew 6:10 we read: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” In heaven, God’s will is always done. Here on earth, mostly, our will is done, not God’s will. We try to fulfill our will; the way we want things to be done. We have our own will. The LORD says, Father, as everything is in heaven, let your will be done always on earth, where I am. We ask God that His will be done in our lives.
Praying for supernatural bread
So first, Jesus is telling us, “pray like this.” In the next paragraph, he says the second most important thing is “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt 6:11).
The phrase, ‘give us this day our daily bread’ is repetitious. Saying ‘give us this day our bread’ would be enough, grammatically. Why this repetition? The original word in Greek that is used for the word ‘daily’ is ‘epiousios’. What does ‘give us this day our epiousios bread mean? It means supernatural. Super-substantial. That is the original meaning of ‘epiousios’. Which bread is that? Is it the daily rice bread or other bread that we get from the shop that God is talking about? Or is it about daily food that we eat?
For this we don’t need to ask every day, “LORD, give us our daily bread,” because more than enough food is available here on earth. God has provided everything that we are in need of. So what bread is Jesus talking about? It’s the spiritual bread. The LORD is saying, whenever you pray, if you want to pray for something, don’t pray for your job, don’t pray for your healing, don’t pray for anything, because God knows you need this. If at all you want to pray, pray for the Eucharist every day.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, when we had Holy Mass in our churches everywhere, we didn’t feel the need to pray for the Eucharist every day. Now we all know it is not easy to get the Eucharist because when that pandemic started, all the churches were closed. Because of the shutdowns, even if one was staying next to a church, they were not allowed to go to the church and receive Communion. No wonder Jesus said ‘pray every day, give us this day our supernatural bread—the Eucharist.’ Jesus knew that one day the Eucharist will not be available.
Also, the number of priests has been reducing. In the future, in most of the world, especially in Europe, the number of priests will be very limited. One may have to travel hours and hours to go for one single Holy Mass, and it will be very difficult to get one single Holy Mass at least once a month. In Europe there are mostly old priests, and even in their old age, though they are retired, they continue celebrating Mass because there is a real need for priests
and only a priest can celebrate Holy Mass. Therefore, all the youngsters should take it as a challenge, listen to the voice of God, and come forward to become priests. We need priests, especially in Europe and other developed countries. This is why Jesus said that if you want to ask for anything, pray like this: “Give us this day our supernatural bread.”
Some people pray every day, “LORD, give us our daily bread. Give us or supernatural bread.” But even if the Holy Mass is next door, they don’t go for Mass. But at the same time they pray, “Give us our Eucharist” every day. That is actually a big mistake; a serious crime. That means we don’t understand the word of God; we don’t understand what we are praying. We are praying every day, in the Our Father prayer, “Give us our daily bread. Give us this day our supernatural bread” which means, “Give us this day the Eucharist.” At the same time We are not going for Holy Mass that day, though Mass is available. Then there is no meaning in praying this prayer. If you are praying it, you should go for Mass. If you are praying it but you are not able to go, then you should pray more, so that the churches may be opened, and so that more priests may be available so that God will be able to give you the Eucharist.
God knew that one day this Eucharist will be forbidden. That is why God told us to pray hard every day: “Give us this day our supernatural bread. LORD, give us this day our supernatural bread. Give us this day our supernatural bread! We need to pray this every day; only then will we be able to get it. Otherwise what we have experienced during the pandemic will happen more in the future, perhaps not because of a pandemic; maybe because of lack of priests. At that time we will have to pray more: “Give us this day our daily bread, please.” Everyone will be begging, thirsting for this supernatural bread.
When the churches are closed down we need to pray the Our Father prayer more, so that the churches will be opened and the Holy Masses will be available and so that priests will be available and we can receive this bread every day.
This means that Jesus wants us to go for daily Mass, not just Sunday Mass. Jesus did not teach us to pray “Give us this bread on Sundays” or “LORD, give us this daily bread on Sundays.” Jesus said pray, “Give us this day our supernatural bread.
A dangerous prayer
In Matthew 6:12 we read, “and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” This is a very tricky situation because when we pray as Jesus said, then the LORD will say, “Really? I don’t see that you have forgiven them. You are still keeping anger and hatred against them.” So then you are telling God, “If you think I haven’t forgiven then don’t forgive me.” That’s exactly what we are praying for every day. If we understand the meaning of the Our Father prayer, those who have unforgiveness will not be able to pray this prayer.
This methodology of prayer that Jesus taught us in the Our Father prayer is a very dangerous prayer, though it seems a very small, simple prayer. If you really want to pray, there are two things you have to keep in mind. First of all, you should make sure that you go for daily Holy Mass, if it is available. If the Holy Mass is not available, you can pray, and you need to, because only then will the Holy Mass become available. If the Holy Mass is available, you should go to receive Holy Communion, otherwise there is no meaning in praying this prayer.
Secondly, if you have unforgiveness, then this prayer won’t be helping you, but will be counter effective. First you have to forgive your neighbors, forgive your enemies, and then pray for it.