The Our Father: Seven Petitions, God at their heart
The very structure of the ‘Our Father’ holds great power.
It sets forth seven petitions or blessings: the first three directed totally to God’s glory; the last four calling upon His grace or divine help to assist us on our journey heavenwards.
What are petitions? Things or favours we seek.
Certainly, God, as our loving Father, wants to bless us with great things. Yet, first and foremost, we are to seek God’s glory: in other words, ‘thy name, thy kingdom, thy will’ (CCC #2804). This sentiment is echoed all throughout Scripture. In fact, not long after teaching His disciples the ‘Our Father’, Jesus says the following in relation to earthly needs like food and clothing: “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well” (Mt 6:33).
What does it mean to seek His kingdom? To desire holiness above all else. Since God is the very epitome of holiness, it is to desire HIM above all else. He is our greatest possible good; so, we live off-balance unless our lives revolve around Him; and if something is fired at you while you are off balance, it doesn’t take much to make you fall; you are easily conquered! This is why prayer is so vital; without it, our connection to the God is weakened.
The structure of the ‘Our Father’ reminds us of this. First, we seek His glory, His kingdom, His will, no matter what it costs us. First, we root ourselves in the very source of Love; then, our prayer becomes imbued with deep power: ‘Love is the source of prayer,’ as the Catechism states, ‘Whoever draws from it reaches the summit of prayer’ (CCC #2806).
Then, once we are fully balanced and rooted in the love of God the Father, once we seek Him above all else, we express other needs: “give us…forgive us…lead us not…deliver us.” The power of these petitions expand tenfold.
Seven petitions, seven blessings, with God at their heart. It is a good thing for us to pay close attention to the structure of the ‘Our Father’. It is the framework for every other prayer we say.
Our Father, Who art in heaven,
Hallowed be Thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy Will be done,
on earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. Amen.