I’m Italian, so forgiveness is not my strong suit. You wanna be force fed some pasta, regardless of when your last meal was, I’m your man!
In the book of Matthew there’s a passage (MT 18: 21-35) that discusses a story about a King who, through mercy, decides to forgive a debt owed to him by one of his servants. Yet later in the story, that same servant is confronted by someone else who owes him a debt. Unlike the King, the servant is unwilling to forgive the debt and orders the person to be thrown into prison.
As I blame my ancestry on my inability to forgive sin, I wonder how many of us are in the same boat. Do you ask for forgiveness while not being able to grant it, like the servant in Matthew? As I thought about the story from Matthew and God’s message about how our forgiveness is tied to that of God’s forgiveness, I’m reminded of my failings every time I say The Lord’s Prayer (one line in particular). This led to me wonder how well I know all the versus of The Lord’s Prayer. Below is an outline of The Lord’s Prayer from Ruth Ann a Professed Lay Carmelite.
Our Father, Who art in heaven
We start this prayer by professing our core religious belief that God is our heavenly Father—the one who is all knowing and all powerful. Notice that Jesus didn’t instruct us to say, “My Father” but stressed “Our Father.” Scripture scholar John Meier explains that in God’s kingdom, we don’t live as isolated individuals but “we experience God’s fatherhood as members of the church, the family of Jesus the Son.” This reminds us that we recognize all those around us as children of God and treat them accordingly.
Hallowed be Thy Name
Hallowed is another word for holy or sanctified. When we say, “hallowed be Thy name,” we are not only telling God “I recognize that you are holy,” but more importantly, we’re asking that His name be recognized by everyone throughout the world as being the ultimate holy power—that one day (sooner rather than later) all will know Him to be righteous, powerful, and everyone’s one true God.
Thy Kingdom come
This petition has a two-fold meaning. First, we are asking that God’s kingdom (where there’s only goodness, honesty, and love for one another) surround us in our everyday life. Secondly, we are praying for the fulfillment of the Lord’s promise that He will return at the end of time and grant us eternal life.
Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven
We pray these words asking for God’s grace to move us to do His will throughout our life. That means doing all the things that will please our Father—even the difficult things, whether it’s something big such as moving an elderly parent into our home or volunteering our time once a week at the soup kitchen, to something as small as giving up a parking space or not calling a best friend to spread some juicy gossip. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops says, “In committing ourselves to [Christ], we can become one spirit with him, and thereby accomplish his will…”
Give us this day our daily bread
Here we’re recognizing that all things we need come to us from God. We’re asking that God continue to give us not only the food we need for nourishment, but also the Bread of Life, the Eucharist.
And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us
This is a tough one. It may be easy for us to ask God to forgive us our “trespasses” or sins, but God in his infinite wisdom teaches us that in order for Him to forgive our wrongdoings, we must first forgive those who’ve hurt us. God isn’t being difficult, rather He’s teaching us that when there is bitterness and anger in our hearts, there’s no room for His love to fill our hearts. How can we ask God to be merciful and forgive our sins, if we’re holding a grudge or refuse to forgive someone who’s wronged us? Forgiving someone is often easier said than done. Only God can give us the strength to do it through prayer.
And lead us not into temptation,
Temptation and sin go hand in hand. When we come face to face with temptation, it can sometimes be difficult to resist. That’s why we need our Father to set up the road blocks and lead us far from the path of temptation.
But deliver us from evil.
Evil is an unfortunate reality in our world. The devil is always trying to tempt us and makes it his full-time job to look for ways to steer us from the right path and onto the wrong one. The devil has no power over God and when we pray to God for protection against all that is evil, He will shield us— always.