Importance of the Lord's Prayer
By Hugh McNichol
I look around Church each week during the celebration of the Lord's Prayer and stand in fascination while everyone prays. The posture of praying the Lord's Prayer is standing. When I was a child you kept your hands folded and did not join in the priestly position of "orate fratres" during the prayer. Namely, hands outstreched to the Father.
My daughter is a second grader. She prays the Lord's Prayer with hands and arms extended. Now that I think about it...all of the children at Saint John the Beloved School use the same posture for the prayer.
Sometimes there are members of the older generations that have adapted this stance for prayer. It seems so unusual to watch older men and women with their hands extended to the Lord in prayer. It seems perfectly natural for this "extendibus manibus" in children. Because of the intrinsic age and nature of being "a child", they are always reaching out to fill all types of need. It could be the need for food, for prayer, for help or even for friendship. As adults we have lost ourselves in pride and do not always ask others for help when we need it.
Theologically speaking however...the posture of the children should be more common in the posture of the adults. We are never to old to be children of the Father. Our extended hands cry out to a loving Father that has offered the world redemption and freedom from sin and death through the sacrifice of Jesus at Calvary.
Most times we take for granted,"the prayer that Jesus taught us." It is recited sometimes without too much thought as we race through the Liturgy of the Eucharist towards communion, the final prayers and ultimately a family breakfast or late dinner.
The Lord's Prayer is special. In the primitive church it was only spoken by those fully initiated into the faith. Namely...the baptised and confirmed. In the Liturgy before the Second Vatican Council, the non initiated were not permitted to remain in Church during the Liturgy of the Eucharist. It was too important and too special for the not fully incorporated into the faith. The catechumens were not even taught this prayer until the final weeks before their baptism during Lent.
The Lord's Prayer was revealed to them. Yes, revealed to them as if it were a secret. That is the importance the Church places on the words that we pray at each Eucharistic celebration. The Fifth Sunday of Lent is the time when the third series of scrutnies takes place. That is, those preparing for Baptism, Confirmation and First Eucharist are examined in Church before the entire assembly and "tested" so to speak before they continue towards the great celebration of new faith and new life at the Easter Vigil.
The Lord's Prayer is given to those in preparation. The faith community transmits another piece of sacred tradition to its newest "candidate" members.
In a similar way, we treat initiation into college fraternities or sorieties with similar secrecy. Catholicism however is not based upon secrecy. Our foundation rests in our common participation in the Eucharistic sacrifice, our Daily Bread...for which we pray in the Pater Noster.
The Lord's Prayer unites us with all of our faithful brothers and sisters, throughout all of the ages that have participated and shared the Eucharistic banquet.
That is why it is special. That is why it is sacred. Our family of faith prays in a united manner to the Father of all Creation that who has provided us with ALL life and sustinence. I am sure most of us do not think of the implications that are attached to this most sacred prayer.
It is however a prayer that most basically asks for Divine integration and assistance into our daily lives.
The prayer with its position of "orate", hands reaching out to God emphasises on multiple levels of our existential dependence on the Father, and our theological relationships between each other.
As Lent has ended and we remember the great celebration of Easter, we as faithful believers need to slow down and take a moment to reflect on the theological journey of faith in which we are all enjoined.
We believe as one Church, we worship as one Church and we ask the Father for His love and sustinence as on Church. During our celebration of the Lord's Prayer, remember the traditions that are associated with the prayer,mindfully recall that the prayer unites us in faith and leads new generations of believers to a life in Christ Jesus.
However you choose to say the prayer...with folded hands, with hands reaching out to God the Lord's Prayer proclaims our faith and dependence on God, and our hope hope for eschatological union with him.
The Prayer To Our Father
(in the original Aramaic)
"Oh Thou, from whom the breath of life comes,
who fills all realms of sound, light and vibration.
May Your light be experienced in my utmost holiest.
Your Heavenly Domain approaches.
Nehwę tzevjânach aikâna d'bwaschmâja af b'arha.
Let Your will come true - in the universe (all that vibrates)
just as on earth (that is material and dense).
Hawvlân lachma d'sűnkanân jaomâna.
Give us wisdom (understanding, assistance) for our daily need,
Waschboklân chaubęn wachtahęn aikâna
daf chnân schwoken l'chaijabęn.
detach the fetters of faults that bind us, (karma)
like we let go the guilt of others.
Wela tachlân l'nesjuna
Let us not be lost in superficial things (materialism, common temptations),
ela patzân min bischa.
but let us be freed from that what keeps us off from our true purpose.
Metol dilachie malkutha wahaila wateschbuchta l'ahlâm almîn.
From You comes the all-working will, the lively strength to act,
the song that beautifies all and renews itself from age to age.
Sealed in trust, faith and truth.
(I confirm with my entire being)
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Hugh McNichol - author, 302 6339348
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