1He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”2He said to them, “When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
3Give us each day our daily bread.
4And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.”
5And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ 7And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ 8I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.
9“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 11Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
The world in front of the text has two dimensions: the response of the reader who encounters the text, and the Church’s history of interpretations and use of the text.
Questions for the teacher
Please reflect on these questions before reading this section and then use the material below to enrich your responsiveness to the text.
Meaning for today/challenges
God as Father
Modern sensibilities can be uncomfortable about masculine language for God and see it as exclusive of the feminine. Jesus’ could not have used anything other than a masculine title for God, given his world’s pervasive patriarchy and limited understanding of reproductive biology (ie, only the male seed was the source of life). The Jewish Scriptures use feminine and masculine imagery for God but never address God with feminine titles. However, God has no gender. The point is we are God’s children and have a privileged relationship with God, who is a gracious life-giving parent. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is helpful here.
“Since our knowledge of God is limited, our language about him is equally so. We can name God only by taking creatures as our starting point, and in accordance with our limited human ways of knowing and thinking” (CCC, n.40).
“By calling God ‘Father’, the language of faith indicates that God is the first origin of everything and transcendent authority; and that God is at the same time goodness and loving care for all [God’s] children. God’s parental tenderness can also be expressed by the image of motherhood, which emphasises God’s immanence, the intimacy between Creator and creature. The language of faith thus draws on the human experience of parents …God transcends the human distinction between the sexes”. God is neither man nor woman: God is God. (CCC, n.239)
Many people today try to use inclusive language and avoid using masculine pronouns as much as possible in relation to God, as do many translations of the Bible such as the NRSV used in this commentary.
The Our Father
Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer orients us in two interconnected directions: towards God, and towards ourselves and our need for God. It is both a model for prayer and a model for the Christian life. Expressing our identity as sons and daughters of God, we are challenged to be in an intimate relationship with God, to praise God’s holy name and to seek and work for God’s reign over all creation. Yet we spend so much of our lives advancing our own name and constructing our own kingdoms, so the prayer reminds us that God forgives us, that we are to be forgive others, and that God protects us and leads us away from sin.
God hears our prayer
“For everyone who asks receives,
and who seeks finds,
and who knocks will have things opened.”
Jesus’ promises here are open-ended and non-committal. Receive what? Find what? What things are opened? Prayer is not mainly about asking for things. It is about being in relationship with God. God certainly would not give a bad thing (like a scorpion) and may give a good thing (like an egg for a child) but God gives a much more important thing. God is wiser than any human parent. God will not necessarily give us anything that we ask for, but God will give what we need: the Holy Spirit. Prayer is about seeking, finding and being open to the Spirit rather than what God can do for us.
For a simple but rich explanation of the Lord’s Prayer, view The Our Father Explained by Xt3.
Church interpretation & usage
Along with the Sign of the Cross, the Lord’s Prayer or “Our Father’ is the most widely used Christian prayer everywhere, always and by all. In personal prayer and in Liturgy, the tradition has used Matthew’s text. Evidence from the Didache show it was used liturgically in the first century CE.
Most Christians know the prayer by heart in their own language, and it is used today by every Christian tradition, though there are sometimes minor variations in the wording. The Lord’s Prayer is rooted in liturgical prayer and is said during the Eucharist, and in the Liturgy of the Hours and the celebration of the Sacraments on Christian Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist).
The first communities prayed it three times a day (Didache 8:2-3) and included a an extra statement of praise of God. As a result, some early manuscripts of Matthew added “for yours is the Kingdom, the power and the glory” but today scholars generally recognise that this is not original. This is commonly said by Protestants but not by Catholics when saying the Lord’s Prayer. Since 1970 it has been included in the Mass soon but not directly after the Lord’s Prayer.
Luke 11:1-13 is the Gospel of the 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time in Year C.