Like the very first disciples, we come to Christ eager to learn how to pray (Luke 11:1). By teaching us the “Our Father” Christ establishes the pattern for all prayer. He explains our relationship with God and with one another: God is our Creator. He is our Redeemer. With him as our common Father we are brothers and sisters to one another.
When Jesus prays he uses the Aramaic word “Abba” (Mark 14:36), which is what small children would have called their fathers. Only Christ, the Eternal Son who is one in being with the Father, has the right to address with such familiarity, with such intimacy, the one whose throne is in the heavens. But we too have been given this privilege by our adoption as children of God in Baptism (Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6). We have become sons and daughters “in the Son” Jesus Christ.
This unimagined and undeserved gift of communion with God transforms every human relationship. We pray not to “my” father or to “your” father, but to “our Father”. Even when we “shut the door and pray… in secret” (Matthew 6:6), we are spiritually united with all our brothers and sisters in Christ and with every human person created in the image and likeness of God and redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. Prayer delivers us from selfishness, from isolation and loneliness. It opens us up to the mystery of communion with God and with others.
In the modern world, scientific and technological developments have dispelled many of our fears, relieved so many of the burdens of our existence, and opened up new possibilities for human self-realization. But these developments can also lead to a great temptation like the one “in the beginning” in the Book of Genesis: the temptation to decide for ourselves what is good and evil without reference to the God who made us, the vain attempt to place ourselves and our wills, rather than God and his law, at the centre of the universe. But if we reject or ignore God “who is love”, we reject love itself.
The first concern of the “Lord’s Prayer” is that God’s name should be glorified, that his Kingdom should come, that his will should be done. If that is our priority, then all else will be given us besides. Progress in science, economics, social organization and culture will not rob us of our humanity, but will reflect the love that alone gives life, meaning and joy to our human efforts. It is God who “gives us our daily bread”, even as we remember that it is not by bread alone that we live, “but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God”.