St. Luke’s account of the Lord’s Prayer reveals that Jesus taught this prayer to His disciples. This suggests that the Our Father can only truly be prayed when those who recite the prayer understand its meaning. And one can only understand its meaning if one has already become a disciple of the Lord.
The first three petitions of the Lord’s Prayer involve God’s glory; the remaining four petitions deal with our needs. This ordering is not insignificant. Before we can ask God for His assistance in regards to our needs, we must first give proper reverence to God’s majesty. It is only when God is adored and loved that all other concerns find their proper order. By acknowledging God as our father, we begin to enter into a proper relationship with Him. In fact, the use of the name “Father” already suggests that we are His children. Fatherhood is predicated upon the existence of children. A man who has no children is not a father. The presence of children implies a Father who has brought them to life.
The second part of the prayer, which involves our needs, is constructed with a perfect unity. The petitions involve three basic human needs and the three spheres of time. First, it implores God to give us bread, symbolic of what is needed to maintain life. The petition concerns things of the present time. Second, it asks God for forgiveness, yet another basic human need. The petition implies the need for redemption per actions performed in the past. Finally, it invokes God’s help in the face of temptation — a need in the future. Therefore, the prayer not only involves basic human needs — it involves all time.
The petitions also acknowledge the role of the Most Holy Trinity in our lives. When we ask for bread, we invoke the power of God the Father, as creator and provider. When we ask for forgiveness, we are reminded of the power of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection, which brought us forgiveness for sins. Finally, when we ask for assistance against future evil, we invoke the Holy Spirit as our protector, advocate and guide.
The second part of the Our Father involves all needs, all time and all of the Trinity. In effect, Jesus invites us to place our lives in God’s hands and to allow God to bring all of Himself into our lives. The Lord’s Prayer is called the “perfect prayer” not only because Jesus, the perfect teacher, taught it, but also because of the perfect unity of needs, time and the role of the Trinity contained within it.
While the Lord’s Prayer is primarily addressed to the Father, it is clear that it also involves the work of the Son and the Holy Spirit. Although they are distinct persons within the Godhead, they remain a perfect unity. May our heartfelt recitation of the Lord’s Prayer help engender our unity with God and with one another as we rely on Him for all of our needs in every age.