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Why the Our Father begins with three praises of God

YOUNG WOMAN PRAYING

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Philip Kosloski - published on 05/16/24

The Lord's Prayer provides a model for us to follow in that it begins with praising God before ever asking him for anything for ourselves.

Typically when we want to pray to God, we jump right to our petitions, giving God a laundry list of demands.

While God gladly listens to our prayers, he taught us to pray in a way that first professes our love of him, rather than our personal desires.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church reflects on this model of prayer in its section on the Our Father:

After we have placed ourselves in the presence of God our Father to adore and to love and to bless him, the Spirit of adoption stirs up in our hearts seven petitions, seven blessings. The first three, more theological, draw us toward the glory of the Father…The first series of petitions carries us toward him, for his own sake: thy name, thy kingdom, thy will! It is characteristic of love to think first of the one whom we love. 

CCC 2803-2804

If you think about it, in our own human relationships we don’t tend to treat those we love as machines that dispense to us whatever we want.

Instead, we show we love them first, professing our love and admiration of them before we ever ask for their love in return.

Praising God

It is appropriate that we begin the Our Father praising God, instead of focusing on ourselves:

In none of the three petitions do we mention ourselves; the burning desire, even anguish, of the beloved Son for his Father’s glory seizes us: “hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done. . . . ” These three supplications were already answered in the saving sacrifice of Christ, but they are henceforth directed in hope toward their final fulfillment, for God is not yet all in all.

CCC 2804

The first three petitions of the Our Father also strengthen our faith and love of God, looking to him for support:

By the three first petitions, we are strengthened in faith, filled with hope, and set aflame by charity. Being creatures and still sinners, we have to petition for us, for that “us” bound by the world and history, which we offer to the boundless love of God. For through the name of his Christ and the reign of his Holy Spirit, our Father accomplishes his plan of salvation, for us and for the whole world.

CCC 2806

This format of prayer can inspire us in our private prayers as well, praising God first, before we ever seek to ask him for something.

Even the Mass shares this format, as we begin with the Gloria and only half-way through the Mass do we reach the petitions.

Through this model, God is likely trying to teach us a proper sense of humility.

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