The great mother of contemplative prayer, St. Theresa of Avila, said, "Let us talk about the Our Father. This is a prayer that we must recite, if we are Christians at all. It is worth our while to learn to say it properly." When a young novice once asked her how to become contemplative in prayer, St. Theresa replied, "Say the Our Father, but take an hour to say it." I do not think it is an overstatement to say that the Our Father contains within it the whole of the gospel, and if we spend time with God by praying this prayer that Jesus taught us to pray, we may begin to experience some sense of His kingdom within and around us.
"Our Father...." The first word, "our" indicates that God is not just Father to me, and Father to you, but is rather the Father of all. God is God to us as individuals, of course, but is in truth the God and Father of all. This small word gives us an expanded understanding of God in community, of God in humanity, of God universal. The second word, "Father," is an intimate statement of relationship. God is our Abba, who embraces us in His arms of infinite love, just as in the story of the Prodigal Son. He waits for us to run to him, and embraces us without question, without explanation. He welcomes us home.
"....who art in heaven...." God is imminent, yes, but also transcendent. He is the God of the universe as well as our loving Father. He is beyond our comprehension, yet within our very own hearts. The God of all time and space (and beyond) is our Abba.
"....hallowed be thy name...." The word "hallowed" means "consecrated" and "greatly honored." The name of God - in other words, God's very Self - is holy and sacred. He is perfection in and of Himself, with the Son and the Spirit. When we come to Him, we become aware of His absolute faithfulness, His holiness, and His perfection. But this is not a Platonic perfection, an immovability. It is a perfection of love and response. As the writer of I John explains, "This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us."
"....thy kingdom come...." Isn't this the crux of what all Jesus-followers desire? That the kingdom be present here and now? And if we are to pray for it, isn't it a very real possibility? Otherwise, Jesus would not have given it as an exemplary prayer. And what is the kingdom? What does it look like? Jesus spoke often about the kingdom of God during his life and ministry. In fact, he said, "....the kingdom of God is in your midst." The kingdom of God is already here and now when we "live and move and have our being" in God. The kingdom of God is that reality in which all the fruits of the Spirit are present: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. It is the reality where the last shall be first, and where every tear is wiped from every eye. It is the reality where the diving wall of sin has been torn down so that real relationality takes place. And it is within and yet not totally without quite yet - that is why we are to pray for it and live more deeply into it.
"....thy will be done on earth as in heaven...." This is an extension of asking for the coming of the kingdom. God's will is for divisions and strife to cease, for peace to reign supreme, for his own Triune life of love and joy and peace to become the reality of the universe. His will, in short, is for all to be saved (I Timothy 2:3-4 and II Peter 3:9). Our prayer is for our own lives and the whole world to be a reflection of God's perfect love.
"....give us this day our daily bread...." But we're still in the world. The final resurrection has not yet taken place. To bring God's kingdom on Earth, we must also have our feet planted firmly in the reality of daily life so that we do not become obtuse and abstract. We are to ask for our daily necessities. We still need physical bread (food) as well as the heavenly Bread of Life.
"....and forgive us our sins and we forgive others...." One cannot happen without the other. If we continue to harbor ill will and hatred towards anyone, we cannot be completely forgiven of our own sins - and we all have many. In Matthew 6:14, Jesus taught us that we will be forgiven only if we forgive others. And it is forgiveness that starts tearing down the dividing walls between people, communities, etc. It is the method whereby peace comes. God so willingly and immediately embraces and forgives us, so we should do likewise in our relations with others.
"....and lead us not into temptation...." To keep our eyes on the finisher and perfecter of our faith, Jesus Christ, we need the inspiration and power of the Holy Spirit. There are so many distractions to take our hearts and minds off of God, and thereby off of love and justice and peace. It is so easy to get swallowed up not only in sin, but simply in distraction. So we ask God to keep our minds on Him, so that temptation eventually becomes boring and unattractive.
"....but deliver us from evil...." We ask God for two things here: to keep us safe from the evil that surrounds us, and also safe from the evil that wants to well up within our own hearts. Deliver us from external and internal evils, we pray. The Psalms are filled with the first kind of prayer. Protect us from our enemies. And Jesus' temptation in the wilderness gives us a supreme example of the second kind of prayer - the prayer that has a singular focus on God and His kingdom, not the kingdoms of this world, and that looks to the kingdoms of this world being transformed into a new Earth.
"....for Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever and ever...." Whatever is happening now, whatever evils and injustices occur to us and around us, we know the end of the story. We know Who is working to reconcile all things to Himself, not by force, but by irresistible grace and love. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess, not out of fear of punishment or force, but because God's Love draws all people to Him.