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Understanding the Lord’s Prayer

Our Father prayerOur Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

This is not just a prayer, it is a powerful invocation and evocation of Consciousness, one of the most important formulas of power in the Christian tradition.

For many centuries it was the practice of fervent Christians to perpetually recite the Lord’s prayer, often using a string of beads to remind them to keep praying. In fact, our word “bead” comes from “bede” which means to pray or petition. So popular was this practice that an entire street in London consisted of shops selling those beads–hence its name of Paternoster Row, Paternoster being Latin for “Our Father.”

Also in those centuries it was common practice for many among the aristocracy and the wealthy to be accompanied at all times by a “bede-man” who stood by them and constantly prayed the Lord’s prayer silently, which was considered an invocation of the entire range of spiritual blessings needed by human beings. In some orders, such as the early Carmelites, a certain number of repetitions of the Lord’s prayer were done in place of the formal hours of the Divine Office. And pious laity often followed the same practice–especially those who had no books from which to read the prayers and psalms of the Office.

But it also has a meaning we should investigate.

  • Our Father, Who art in heaven.

The “abode” of God is God: Infinite Consciousness symbolized by the boundless sky known in Indian mysticism as the Chidakasha or Conscious Space (Ether)–not some heaven modeled on the earth or any other kind of relative existence.

  • Hallowed be Thy Name.

The very thought of God should be consecrated and consecratory in our minds. The holy names that invoke divine remembrance should be highly prized. The Greek word translated “name” is onoma, which means a name, an object named, and something that is being called upon–and in this instance implies the act of calling upon God. So we pray that any reaching out for God inwardly and outwardly will be made holy by divine response. For “hallow” is a translation of agiadzo, which means to make holy and also to purify. We are also asking that our invocation of God be purified and made effective–and the same be done to us.

  • Thy kingdom come.

May the divine Consciousness descend into us and become our consciousness–may our finitude be transformed into Infinity and may we become gods within God.

  • Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Thus may we become perfect reflections of God here and now, being ourselves revelations of the Divine.

  • Give us this day our daily bread.

May our life in the spirit be continually sustained by spiritual enlivenment received through direct, conscious and continual communion with God, “the heavenly bread, the life of the whole world.”

  • And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us.

Jesus is enunciating an inescapable law: “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (Matthew 7:12). “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matthew 6:14). Even in the Beatitudes he set forth this principle, saying: “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7).

Saint Paul wrote: “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7). So although here we are praying about being forgiven for our transgressions, we are also assenting to the entire law of karma and the responsibility it entails. Further, we are promising to follow that law in the future in all things.

  • And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

This does not mean that God would lead us into enticement to wrongdoing, but we are praying that we need not undergo difficulties or testings that will reveal our inner disposition to wrongdoing, but that they be revealed to us directly through the purification of our mind.

We pray that by our conforming to the karmic laws it will no longer be necessary for us to undergo the reaping of negative karmic seeds, but that the purification of our hearts will enable us to escape them through having learned the lessons they were meant to teach us–for karma is never reward and punishment but reaction meant for our instruction in the universal laws. We are aspiring to reach such a degree of wisdom that there will be no need for karmic reaction.

It is a matter of awakening into higher consciousness where karmic reaction will no longer be needed. As the Gita tells us: “Do not say: ‘God gave us this delusion.’ You dream you are the doer, you dream that action is done, you dream that action bears fruit. It is your ignorance, it is the world’s delusion that gives you these dreams” (Bhagavad Gita 5:14).

  • For Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

This is a recognition of God’s eternal nature and a prayer for participation in that Eternal Being to such a degree that we will truly be gods within the greater Life of God. This transformation is the core of Jesus’ teachings, of “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). This is no fanciful dream, but a reality, for we see in the great saints and masters that it is possible for men to become gods.

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