Our Father – A Radical Prayer?

by | Sep 2, 2020 | Formation, Reflections, Systemic change | 2 comments

Jesus – a radical?

The simple answer is yes. Jesus was radical in his ministry and teachings. He questioned the rulers of the Jewish faith, he threw people out of the temple, he pronounced woe to the scribes and Pharisees, he performed healings and miracles on the Sabbath, and even ate without washing his hands. His whole Sermon on the Mount turned the Jewish traditions and laws seemingly upside down.

The simple answer is that Jesus was a radical; however, I don’t believe it’s that simple.

Jesus was a radical who was fully committed to doing God’s will. He was a servant to his followers, as well as a leader. He was radical about what was really important to him.

What was really important for Jesus?

We know that life-long the most important thing for him was his mission to bring “good news” of God’s Kingdom to a confused and suffering humanity. He concretized his message in the image of God’s kingdom where all were welcome (Mt. 25). He was all about God’s kingdom.

He described how those who understood the kingdom would treat one another as sisters and brothers (Mt 25), as what was important to God. The first followers asked how they should pray. He taught them above all to pray “Our Father” and that God’s kingdom come. (Like 11:24, Mt 25:31)

The Catechism of the Catholic Church

No wonder the Catechism of the Church says that what we pray for should be centered on the praying “thy kingdom come.”

  • Christian petition is centered on the desire and search for the Kingdom to come, in keeping with the teaching of Christ. #2632
  • There is a hierarchy in these petitions: we pray first for the Kingdom, then for what is necessary to welcome it and cooperate with its coming. #2632
  • This collaboration with the mission of Christ and the Holy Spirit, which is now that of the Church, is the object of the prayer of the apostolic community.… By prayer, every baptized person works for the coming of the Kingdom. #2632

This gives us a context for everything else we pray for.

  • When we share in God’s saving love, we understand that every need can become the object of petition. #2633

Praying for the kingdom is praying for a systemic change.

I must admit I never thought of the Our Father as a prayer for systemic change. Often, without realizing it, I have tended to think of the kingdom in terms of the future.

But as I reflect now on what was important to Jesus in the here and now of our lives, I realize how much I am praying for a systemic change in my consciousness. The kingdom is waking up to who we are as sons and daughters and brothers and sisters. That’s why he could say “For behold, the kingdom of God is among you.” Luke 17:21

What could be a more radical change in my consciousness and how I live into that reality?

Praying for what is really important.

  • Apart from the Our Father, do I pray for the coming of the kingdom as Jesus asked?
  • Do I realize that praying “thy kingdom come” is praying for the greatest systemic change of all times and persons?
  • Does praying for the kingdom to come to rule out praying for the things we more frequently ask God for?



  1. Louis arceneaux, c.m.

    Great article and probably because we agree on belief that what Jesus was all about was bringing forth the kingdom or reign of God in this world as well as into the future. the Lord’s prayer begins with acknowledging God as our Father in heaven and then promoting the kingdom of God. we need to make sure God is first and promoting the kingdom is next in line. we make it concrete by wanting God’s will here on earth as well as beyond; we continue to humanize it by asking for daily bread, not millions in our bank accounts; we top this off by praying that we will experience forgiveness to the extent that we forgive others; finally we ask to be free from temptation and evil . That is a lifetime of promoting systemic change in ourselves and in our communities and in our world. Peace, Louie

  2. Larry Huber

    When I was in high school, we had four years of Latin (Jesuit* high school) so we learned the word “radix” meaning “root.” We discovered that, in its purest sense, a “radical” was someone who was hearkening back to the roots of whatever context being discussed. So, Father, in your example, Jesus was clearly trying to get folks back to where the Father intended them all along in the beginning.
    But, I think we did the Lord’s Prayer a disservice by adopting the King James Version of that beginning line. In both the original Greek of the Gospels (and in the Latin translation later), there is no verb in the phrase, “on earth as in heaven.” The KJV (and subsequent English translations) made the verb singular, so that it ONLY referred to the “your kingdom come” portion of that first line. When you recognize that all three elements: “hallowed be your name”; “your will be done”; and “your kingdom come” are all meant to be shared both on earth as in heaven, you begin to appreciate the depths of the prayer. I always pray “on earth as in heaven” meaning all three are to be striven for.
    So, to your point, the prayer is indeed striving for systemic change – radical systemic change. So many things we pray for often fall into that category of “we need this” or “they need that” with not as much regard for why we found ourselves in so much need in the first place. Systemic change addresses the causes of the need.
    But, systemic change is like that tree I planted last summer. I will never see its full benefit in my lifetime. That’s why it hasn’t caught on. It takes too long to see results.
    Knowing all that, still many of my prayers take on personal fulfillment nature (or personal convenience when it comes to some other people in my life). I guess we have to modify the old adage, “Charity begins at home, but why is so much charity needed at home?!?!”
    Thanks for bringing all those thoughts to mind.
    *I know, those darn Jesuits wreak havoc again.