Sunday, February 21, 2016

Hope and the Our Father

There are two versions of the Our Father. There is the long version found in Matthew 6:9-13, and the shorter version found in Luke 11. In Matthew’s story of Good News (Gospel means Good News), the Our Father is an extension of his teaching on the Beatitudes. In Luke, it is given in response to a request by one of his disciples to teach them how to pray.

To pray, as I discussed in the last chapter, is to petition or to ask someone for help. They wanted to know how they ought to approach God in order to get His help. They wanted to know how to gain favor with God so that they could restore hope in their lives.

Seeking Advice from Hope

In this story, Jesus is the embodiment of Love, but He is also the ultimate symbol of hope for the victory of humanity’s better nature over its weaknesses. It’s important to keep that in mind. They were literally seeking advice from Hope on how to request Love’s help in getting the things they wanted out of life, although they didn't realize that's what they were doing.

Hope Points to Love

Hope’s response to their question is to point them to Love. He gives them the Our Father as a compass that will lead them to Love.

Our Father

Hope begins by referencing Love as a father figure. Love brought us into being. Love provides the role of Father in our lives, chastising us when we need it and teaching us how to become a useful, contributing member to the world in which we live. If we look to Love for guidance, we will find that He teaches us how to achieve all that we truly desire.

Who art in heaven

Heaven is that place where Love dwells in its fullness and because of it there are no sorrows and no tears because there is no pain and no suffering. When Love is in charge, happiness, joy, and goodness gather with Him.

Hallowed be thy name

It’s a tendency of humanity to take Love for granted. We treat it casually, toss the word around like it has no meaning, and use it as a means of manipulating others to get what we want.

Hope tells us that if we want to experience the benefits of Love, we need to begin by treating that word with reverence and respect. We must never speak it casually or carelessly or as a means of selfish gain.

Thy Kingdom come

Hope teaches us to desire for the day when Love reigns supreme to arrive.

Thy will be done

Hope encourages us to surrender our lives to Love’s rule and guidance.

On earth as it is in Heaven

Hope reminds us that we are to do this in the places where Love is imperfectly lived and loving others takes all of our strength to do just as we want to be able to do in the place where Love is perfectly and completely lived and loving others comes easily to us. Hope knows that Love takes practice and an effort of the will. We won't be ready for the perfect if we don't first conquer the imperfect.

Give us this day our daily bread

Hope promises us that Love will provide the remedy for our hungers each day. All we have to do is find the courage to be open about our need.

And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us

Love understands the brokenness inside us that leads us to wound one another, and so Love has compassion on us when we fail to share Love with one another. All Love expects in return is that we show the same compassion to each other that He’s shown to us. Hope tells us that if we want to receive forgiveness for our failures and to be set free of our failures, we have to be partners in setting other people free from the things they’ve done and their failures.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean we say it’s okay that they did what they did. It means that we understand that it was their brokenness that caused them to wound us and so we refuse to allow ourselves to be changed or broken by their brokenness. We release the pain to Love and we let Him heal us instead. 

Holding on to the wound is a lot like holding on to broken glass. It’s only going to cut us deeper.

And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil

Evil is sacrificing someone else’s life, happiness, or goods in order to get what we want. It diminishes someone else’s worth or dignity in order to build up our own. It’s a rejection of the call to Love our neighbor as ourselves.

In order to combat the fear of going without or of being left out that leads us to choose evil, Hope lets us know we need to call on Love for help whenever we start to feel like taking from others or bullying others is our only path to Hope. This way, we’ll be able to overcome evil rather than give into it.

Focus on the Meaning, Not on the Words

As you recite the Our Father, focus on the meaning of the words. Absorb it into your brain and let it spill out into your life. Turn to it when you need a reminder of how to find real hope in your life.

Next Up: Hope and the Glory Be

The Glory Be is one of the shortest of the Rosary prayers, yet no less important for its size. In the next article, I’ll talk about the Glory Be and its role in helping you cultivate hope’s presence in your life.

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