In my current capacity, and for a time and for a season, my day job sees me working with a cluster of Catholic schools to build Catholic ethos and identity in these schools. During my orientation week, I had the honour and privilege of sitting in for a lesson observation for a Religious Education class held in one of the primary schools belonging to the cluster of Catholic Schools. This sense of joy at being able to witness someone else teach a young generation the tenets of the Faith, soon turned into horror, as I sat traumatised for the entire duration of the lesson observation. This teacher whom I was observing was an elderly teacher on the cusp of retirement and the lesson that was being taught was how to pray the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary. What left me petrified, were the things that this lady said and did – Father forgive her for she knows not what she was doing. She would say things like, “It is God’s will for you to be silent and quiet now. If you are not going to do that, you will be going to hell!” She also spent the entire duration of her lesson yelling and screaming at the primary school children. I left the class feeling perturbed and unsettled. Her sharp voice yelling, “Pray! Pray!” resounds and reverberates through my core still today, but not in a good way. No wonder the students in her class were all disengaged. If this is the kind of catechesis that our children are receiving in the Catholic schools, then having first taught them to detest and to hate the Faith, it is no surprise that these same children, the future and now of the Church, are also the same ones who cannot wait to “graduate” after Confirmation and leave the Church for good. Thankfully, the school had enough prudence not to renew her teaching contract.

When we pray and converse with God, many of us approach God with some degree of woundedness and misconceptions that have clouded our perceptions, while often not as dramatic as the scenario described above, these little accumulated wounds of how we see God our Father, also affect our relationship with God.

Who really is God our Father?

Jesus teaches us a way to approach prayer and to encounter God our Father, in the way that He intended us to encounter Him.

“Our Father in Heaven”

We do not start the Lord’s Prayer by saying, “Almighty God” or “Lord God,” or even just “God.” Instead, we pray, “Our Father.”  The Maker of life and all things is not aloof and impersonal. Instead, Jesus shows us that God is very close to us.

By inviting us to address God as our Father, Jesus contextualises prayer as a deeply cherished conversation and relationship and tells us that we can speak to God with the same tenderness and honesty that we use with our closest confidants and friends.

If God is our Father, then all people are our brothers and sisters. That jerk who cut you off in traffic? That bully who insulted you and your mother? That incompetent and self-interested boss you cannot stand? God is their Father as much as God is my Father too. We also say “Our Father” instead of “My Father”, and this is revolutionary for Christian Prayer is always carried out in unity with the whole and larger Body of Christ (Rossmann, 2019).

Pope Francis (2023) reminds us: “God is near. So, never forget this: God has always been close to the people. He said it to the people Himself: He said, “Look, what God is as close to the nations as I am to you?” This closeness is one of the most important things about God. There are three important things: closeness, mercy, and tenderness. Don’t forget that. Who is God? The One Who is Close, the One Who is Tender, the One Who is Merciful. This is the reality of God. We, in preaching, often urge people to do something, and that is fine; but let’s not forget that the main message is that He is near: closeness, mercy, and tenderness. Accepting God’s love is more difficult because we always want to be in the centre, we want to be protagonists, we are more inclined to do than to let ourselves be moulded, to speak than to listen. But, if what we do comes first, we will still be the protagonists. Instead, the proclamation must give primacy to God: to give the primacy to God, the first place to God, and to give to others the opportunity to welcome Him, to realise that He is near. And me in the background.” (para. 5)

“Hallowed be thy Name”

The term “hallow” can be traced etymologically to Old English word, halgian – to make holy, to sanctify, to consecrate, ordain, and honour as set apart and holy. In Latin, this word takes the form, sanctificare (Online Etymology Dictionary, n.d.) Of significance, is how the Our Father presents “hallow” in the past participle form – “hallowed”. There is no need to make God’s name holy, for God being holy, His Name is already Holy.

The Our Father or The Lord’s Prayer is a perfect model of how we should pray and for what things we should pray, and in what order.

First, this prayer teaches us that we should desire the glory and honour of God as the first intention of our prayer, no matter what we may be praying for. Thus, we pray that God’s name be honoured and held holy. In calling upon the Name of God our Father, we recall the first commandment: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall not have other gods beside me. You shall not make for yourself an idol or a likeness of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth; you shall not bow down before them or serve them.” (Exodus 20:2-5) and the second commandment: “You shall not invoke the name of the LORD, your God, in vain. For the LORD will not leave unpunished anyone who invokes his name in vain.” (Exodus 20: 7)

Scripturally, this is traced in the words of the Magnificat, where Mary proclaims, “The Almighty works marvels for me. Holy is His Name.” (Luke 1:49). God’s Name is sanctified and set apart. Scott Hahn (2002) explains that God’s Name is representative of the covenant that He makes with His people. A covenant is greater than a contract or a treaty, as it involves the forming of a family bond that is enduring across the generations. This covenant was enacted by means of an oath. The calling of God’s Name is something extremely serious, and as a people under this covenantal oath, when we call upon His Name, we are in fact swearing to fulfil our duties as a People of God and failure to do so would mean that we would need to accept the dire consequences and penalties of not doing as such. As Deuteronomy 11:26-28 reminds us: “See, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse: a blessing for obeying the commandments of the LORD, your God, which I give you today; a curse if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD, your God, but turn aside from the way I command you today, to go after other gods, whom you do not know.”

 “Your Kingdom come”

Pope Benedict XVI (2007) says, “The Kingdom is not a thing, it is not a geographical dominion like worldly kingdoms. It is a person; it is he. On this interpretation, the term “Kingdom of God” is itself a veiled Christology. By the way in which he speaks of the Kingdom of God, Jesus leads men to realize the overwhelming fact that in him God himself is present among them, that he is God’s presence. (chapter 3) The Kingdom of God is a space of forgiveness, mercy, justice, chastity, and consists of the love of the poor and the love of one’s enemies, the celebration of the dignity of a person, and what is good, true and beautiful. The Kingdom of God has God, not man, at its centre. Yet many neither desire nor understand the value of some or even most of these things.

The words, “Your Kingdom come” is a petition that sets the tone of the prayer so as to align the prayer towards the Divine. The emphasis is placed on the divine rather than on human action in the petitions that immediately precede and follow it.

“Your Will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven”

The Will of God is ultimately for our happiness. However this is not a temporary, hedonistic type of happiness or pleasure, but a deep, and lasting joy. God’s Will is for us to share and partake of the jubilation of Heaven right now.

Mother Mary who is the Mother of Christ, is the perfect example of surrendering to God’s will. She did not put herself first, but trusted wholly in God’s Divine Mercy. The Virgin Mary, is a model of our Faith, because she believed that nothing is impossible for God,
and thus enabled the Lord God, the Living Word to be incarnate in our world. She lived her life with her own will aligned to God’s Will. Due to this daily and minute by minute surrender to God’s Will in her life, God exalted her, rescued her from the wages of sin, which is death – “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) and brought her body and soul intact into Heaven at the end of her days. We celebrate this phenomenon known as the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The words, “Your will be done, on earth as in heaven” present a petition for the Divine purpose of God to establish the Kingdom of God as it is in Heaven already, on Earth as well.

“Give us this day our daily bread”

When we pray for God to give us our daily bread, we are asking for two things:
The first is strictly temporal – we recognise that we are completely dependent on the goodness and kindness of God for all that we have. We also reflect on our responsibility to help those who lack the necessities of life. The second is spiritual and reflects a longing for God and the Divine. Each time we pray the Our Father, we ask God to give us all that sustains us. We recognise God as our Provider who cares for us and who is concerned about our wellbeing.  This prayer reminds us to depend on God, for we cannot sustain ourselves on our own merit. God is Faithful and will provide in abundance what we need for our good. He is telling us that there is no need to worry. God will daily give us the supplies that we need – via the Divine Dimension, His Eucharistic self, and via the material everyday – the necessities of the things that we need in life (Catholic Answers, n.d.).

“and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us”

This part presents a prayer for mercy – to be forgiven of our debts just as we forgive others of their debts– and this is for our own sake. Unforgiveness traps us, while forgiveness and mercy free us and allow God to handle the demands of justice.

As CCC. 201 tells us, ‘The Church has the mission and the power to forgive sins because Christ himself has conferred it upon her: “Receive the Holy Spirit, if you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20:22-23). ‘

CCC. 594 teaches us, “By asking God the Father to pardon us, we acknowledge before him that we are sinners. At the same time we proclaim his mercy because in his Son and through the sacraments “we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:14). Still our petition will be answered only if we for our part have forgiven first.

While CCC. 595 affirms, “Mercy can penetrate our hearts only if we ourselves learn how to forgive – even our enemies. Now even if it seems impossible for us to satisfy this requirement, the heart that offers itself to the Holy Spirit can, like Christ, love even to love’s extreme; it can turn injury into compassion and transform hurt into intercession. Forgiveness participates in the divine mercy and is a high-point of Christian prayer.”

“and lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.”

In this part of the prayer, we pray that God would direct our paths so that we would not end up otherwise on paths that would lead to our destruction – “…because every day and every hour we are in danger of falling into sin and saying no to God” (Austrian Bishops’ Conference, YouCat 525). The final petition goes a step further, with a plea for God’s authority to deliver us from every evil – We recognise that there is an evil in the world that is devastating in power, but God is far greater, stronger, and bigger than this evil. We need to depend on God to vanquish evil for we ourselves are powerless and do not have the authority to engage with the battle at hand. It is God who will fight our battles as Exodus 14: 13-14 affirms: “Fear not, stand your ground. You will see the victory that the Lord God will Himself win for you today. These Egyptians whom you see today, you will never see again. The Lord God will Himself fight for you. You need only be still.”

What we find in the Our Father is much more than just words to repeat. The words represent a starting point for our spiritual journey: a constant turning to God, acknowledging Him for who He is, and asking for His help along the way. The Our Father is more than a prayer. It is a path that leads directly into the heart of God our Father.


With the Amen, we say “so be it” – Let it be done as God wills it to be.

The early Christians recited this original prayer of the Church, which is entrusted to every Christian at Baptism, three times a day.

When I pray the Our Father, am I praying it out of obligation and rote, or are the words taking on a deeper significance as they should?

Does my mind zone out as I take the words that I am praying for granted?

To whom am I speaking to, when I pray the Our Father?

By the Grace of God,

Brian Bartholomew Tan



Catechism of the Catholic Church. (1993). Catechism of the Catholic Church. Librera Editrice Vaticana. Retrieved from

Catholic Answers. (n.d.). The Our Father – The Lord’s Prayer. Catholic Answers. Retrieved August 10, 2023 from

Hahn, S. (2002). Hallowed be thy Name. Catholic Education Resource Center. Retrieved August 10, 2023 from

Online Etymology Dictionary. (n.d.) Hallow. Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved August 10, 2023 from

Pope Benedict XVI. (2007). Jesus of Nazareth. Double Day.

Pope Francis. (2023, February 15). General Audience Address. Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Retrieved from

Rossmann, M. SJ. (2019). Catholic 101: Praying the Our Father. The Jesuit Post. Retrieved August 10, 2023 from

Austrian Bishops’ Conference (eds.). (2015). Youcat. Youcat Foundation.