Praying the ‘Our Father’ to Resist Pride

Human pride is something God detests:

Every proud heart is an abomination to the LORD; be assured that none will go unpunished (Proverbs 16:5).

But pride is sought after in our society and respected. It forms the basis of advertising, the pursuit of money, advanced degrees, physical perfection, etc. Since humans are so inclined toward it, scripture abounds in warnings to resist it. Jesus warned,

“…for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:14).

St. Thomas called pride an “aversion” to God, meaning a repulsion or shunning:

Wherefore aversion from God and His commandments, which is a consequence as it were in other sins, belongs to pride by its very nature, for its act is the contempt of God (link).

Humility is an underlying theme of the Lord’s Prayer, and by saying it with sincerity we can fight temptations to be prideful.

Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name

The word for “hallowed be” is defined as “to render or acknowledge to be venerable”. Affirming that God’s name is holy is commonly found in the Old Testament ( e.g., Isaiah 29:23; Ezekiel 20:41; Ezekiel 38:23). But for those having a problem with pride, such an affirmation is not possible. King Herod was an example:

On an appointed day, Herod, attired in royal robes, [and] seated on the rostrum, addressed them publicly. The assembled crowd cried out, “This is the voice of a god, not of a man.” At once the angel of the Lord struck him down because he did not ascribe the honor to God, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last (Acts 12:21-23).

God will always cause His own name to be hallowed:

The eyes of human pride shall be lowered, the arrogance of mortals shall be abased, and the LORD alone will be exalted (Isaiah 2:11).

Thy Kingdom come

Since we are not told when Jesus will return, we are acknowledging our willingness to humbly wait on the Lord’s timing. In the meantime, we must patiently endure the presence of evil, as well as illness, suffering, persecution, etc., all of which will be extinguished at the end of the present age.

“The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matthew 13:41-43).

Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven

Here we recall Jesus’ words in the Garden of Gethsemane:

 “My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done!” (Matthew 26:39).

When Jesus composed the Lord’s Prayer, He already knew what the will of His father was with respect to His own future. He would drink the cup of suffering and death, knowing that God had a greater purpose in it, the redemption of fallen humanity. Committing ourselves to the will of God is humbly submitting ourselves to His providential plan for our good, and this might also involve suffering and persecution.

Give us this day our daily bread

We’re told here that this entire prayer is meant to be a daily supplication to God. While our need for physical nourishment is an obvious daily need, there are other daily needs as well: emotional, spiritual, financial, familial, etc.

One passage for understanding this comes from the first epistle of Peter:

And all of you, clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for “God opposes the proud but bestows favor on the humble.” So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you.

The important line is the last one, but it is poorly translated here as a separate sentence. The Greek verb rendered “Cast”, epiripsantes, is in the grammatical form of a participle, which in English would have to be translated with the addition of an “ing”, making it part of the previous sentence:

So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time, casting all your worries upon him because he cares for you.

According to Peter, this makes the daily act of casting of our worries on God the expression of humbling ourselves “under the mighty hand of God”. The practice of humility leads to a worry-free life.

And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us

Acknowledging our sins and asking for forgiveness is unavoidably a humbling experience. In Psalm 51 David’s self-reflection on his transgressions, specifically adultery and murder, do not include a mention of either one. The gravity of killing someone’s husband so you can take his wife was less of a crime against Uriah than a grievous disobedience of God’s law:

Against you, you alone have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your eyes so that you are just in your word, and without reproach in your judgment (vs. 6).

David knows that humble contrition is all we can offer to God:

For you do not desire sacrifice or I would give it; a burnt offering you would not accept. My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit; a contrite, humbled heart, O God, you will not scorn (vss. 18-19).

“And lead us not into temptation,

The verb “to lead” in Greek is eisphero, and it is usually translated “to bring” or “to bring into”, less commonly “to lead” or “to lead into”, but that’s pretty much it. It has a very narrow range of meaning. The word for temptation can also be translated “test”.

It is theologically uncomfortable to affirm that God leads his children into temptation or testing, but that’s what St. Luke and the other evangelist wrote. Jesus wants us to humbly ask God not to be tested. Recall what He said to Peter:

“Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to sift you like wheat” (Luke 22:31).

but deliver us from evil”

The word “evil” could also be translated “evil one”. Here we humbly acknowledge our weakness and dependence on God to protect us from Satan’s ensnarements.


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