The Our Father: an Examination of Conscience
Father, it was your Son, Jesus, who taught us this prayer called the Our Father. In deep humility, we confess that too often we have offered this prayer casually or mindlessly. As the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, so we too, impelled with holy daring and by the Holy Spirit, beg that you deepen our understanding of these words. Purify our hearts and minds that we may become more aware of our poverty and our true motivations, and more than ever, our deep yearning and desire for you alone, most holy and ancient One.
"I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!”
In the early morning, before the day drives away loneliness, we call upon your name. Your passing shadow blesses all that it touches; your fatherhood sanctifies each of us with an invitation.
My heart opens to your Word and wants to embrace your ineffable beauty, but sometimes I hesitate to draw so near to the fire of your love. From my deepest self, I want to call you my Father, but I find intimacy and transparency with you to be intimidating. Do I sense that drawing near to you would mean that I might have to change, to let go of some things? Do I find a certain distance from you to be “safer?”
“God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” (Galatians 4:4)
“That they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us.” (John 17:21)
Who art in heaven
You are pure spirit, having lived for all eternity in your own blessed presence, yet you are close to the contrite of heart.
My understanding tries to scale the heights of your incomprehensible being, but then they fall back. As the horizon of my deliberations fall short, I often turn and lose myself in the world, seeking solace and fulfillment in that which cannot ultimately satisfy. Why do I forget that my true homeland is with you in eternity and not an ersatz heaven that I try to create on earth? Why do I go out to seek for you in other places or times and not here and now, within myself?
“No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven, the Son of man.“ (John 3:13)
“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” (Col. 3:2-3)
Hallowed be Thy name
Your name alone bears your presence; it bestows healing, blessing, and peace to all who call upon it.
In my forgetfulness, I am sometimes careless in the presence of your Name. I forget to genuflect interiorly before its pronunciation. Why is not your ineffable name ever on my lips, calling upon your presence, keeping your blessed memory always before me, and praising your name continually.
“Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are.” (John: 17:11)
“From the rising of the sun to its setting, let the name of the Lord be praised!” (Psalm 113:3)
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven
Your kingdom, Father, is your Presence, to be fully known in heaven, but perhaps obscurely here in this life.
Instead of abandoning myself to you, I often settle for a trifling and diminished kingdom in this world. Is it because I prefer that my will be done rather than yours? Why is it so often that it is on my timetable that I acknowledge and abide by your will? Do I really deep-down wish for your kingdom to come? Does my false self worry that my freedom might be constricted?
“Behold, I come to do your will, O God.” (Heb. 10:7)
“For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother." (Matt. 12:50)
Give us this day our daily bread
As our Father, you already know each of our needs and wants, our desires and dreams. You created us to need daily sustenance for life to be sustained. But more so, our hearts need to feed on every word from your mouth.
My greater shame is that I do not pine more for you. Your fire blazes at the core of my being, and yet I forget, or worse, not notice. When I am so utterly dependent on you, why do I allow the false self to rule and try to go it alone, presuming on your mercy? Why do I not trust more in your goodness and care for me?
“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Matt. 4:4)
“If 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!" (Lk 11:13)
And forgive us our trespasses
In your mercy, you have compassion on all who are truly repentant.
As I humbly ask for forgiveness, some part of me still seems to savor the transgression, to again acquiesce to its allure. In my weakness, why are my eyes still drawn to the offense to your holiness, like a kitten skittering after a piece of yarn? Why is it so hard to break those bonds that bind?
“But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, `God, be merciful to me a sinner!'” (Luke 15:11)
“Have mercy on me, God, in accord with your merciful love; in your abundant compassion blot out my transgressions.” (Psalm 51:3)
As we forgive those who trespass against us
As you are ready to grant mercy and forgiveness without end, you ask us to do likewise.
You know that we struggle to truly forgive others. Is it because I feel diminished by their offense against me? Is my struggle to forgive really rooted in my sentiments of entitlement, self-absorption, or self-importance? Are pride and a lack of humility at the source of my reluctance to forgive? Do I forget that resentment and bitterness are chains that bind and deep down deny the act of forgiveness?
“Then Peter came up and said to him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.” (Matt. 18:21-22)
“If you forgive men their offenses, your heavenly Father will forgive you yours; but if you do not forgive men, neither will your heavenly Father forgive your offenses.” (Matt. 6:14-15)
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil
As our Father, you watch over us and wish to lead us into all goodness and happiness, but you permit trials to test and strengthen us in your grace.
As daily trials arise, I complain and forget that everything comes from your hand. Why do I forget that trials are but an invitation to hear your voice and to trust in your providence? Why do I forget that you can always bring good from any situation? And why do I not see that each temptation is more than just to give in or not, it is an opportunity to receive your grace, to grow and be strengthened?
“God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Cor. 10:13)
“Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." (Matt. 26:41)
“Blessed be the LORD for ever! Amen and Amen.” (Psalm 89:52)
“Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20)
Father, let these petitions ascend like incense to you on high, unweighted by lukewarmness, fickleness, or weakness of heart. Let them be unencumbered by distractions, fancies, encroaching affluence, or love of self.
But instead, we beseech you, let us be filled with a zeal for your name and a growing and boundless love of you who are our Father and God. Let us at all times stay awake like sentinels of the dawn, abandoning ourselves to you at every moment, longing for your coming, desiring to gaze into your Face.
Translation of holy card text: "In the evening of life, we will be judged on love alone." --St. John of the Cross