Carol Bannon ponders the challenges of understanding what we actually say when we pray the Our Father.
As a Catholic, I was taught the Our Father at a very early age by my parents. We prayed it before dinner, during Masses, and reciting the Rosary. It is also the one prayer I have always had difficulty grasping. Not the entire prayer, but specific portions of it. Over the years, meditating on each line, I have privately altered or added some words in my desire to better understand what I am actually saying to God.
For example, silently in my heart I will at times say, “My Father, who art in Heaven,” reminding myself time and again: God IS my Father, He is in complete control, and He loves me. Other days I may feel very angry about issues occurring in our country or world and vow to Him, “Your will WILL be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.” On those days I am promising God I will be His Face to those I meet. I often also privately say to myself, “Give ME this day MY daily bread,” because I know receiving Christ in the Eucharist is the greatest gift we will ever receive on Earth.
These minor alterations in the prayer Jesus gave to the world often give me great solace and help me see God more clearly every single day.
And then comes the part where I stumble!
“And forgive us our trespasses; as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
Many times I want to insert the word “try to forgive those who trespass” because I have a hard time forgiving those who hurt my family and friends. I may tell others I have forgiven a person, but deep inside? I know God can see I still carry a grudge, or hope they will one day experience the hurt they imposed. God knows and sees everything!
Asking God to forgive me as I forgive some people? Come Judgment Day I know I am going to fall short … very short.
So, after Mass this week I decided to finally share my confusion about the *what are we asking for* with my priest, Father Rowland. Are we asking God to forgive us as we forgive others, or not? I understand now: the forgiveness we petition God for is twofold.
When we plead for God’s Mercy, we are entering an agreement with God. We agree, unconditionally he said, to be judged as we judge others. Much to my chagrin, adding *try to* was not a great idea. In tandem though he continued, we are also requesting God to bestow graces on us so we can forgive as He forgives. These graces are given when we say, and put into practice “as we forgive those.”
Jesus taught us all how to pray to God, how to bow down before Him in gratitude, praise, and thanksgiving. He showed us the way. Slow down the recitation of this familiar and beautiful prayer. Practice meditating on the real meaning behind each word. Teach your children to visualize every phrase.
Make giving glory to Our Father part of your daily devotions -- and your family’s.
Copyright 2020 Carol S. Bannon
Image: Maria Oswalt (2019), Unsplash
About the Author
Carol Sbordon Bannon is a full-time writer with a degree in elementary education from Worcester State University. She is a substitute teacher and has been a catechist for over thirty years. In addition to A Handshake From Heaven, she is also the coauthor of Our Family's Christmas Elf. She is happily married and currently resides in Concord Township, Ohio. Visit Carol at CSBannon.Wordpress.com.