When the disciples of Christ asked Him how to pray, he gave them a formulaic prayer that has been recited billions of times since His instruction. Let us now consider praying that prayer with the one who is God’s highest creation, the Mother of the Eternal Son and the daughter of the eternal Father.
Our Father, who art in heaven
Mary calls on God as her Father. If you think Mary did not pray, you need to reconsider that theory and re-read John 17. If the Son who is God could pray, Mary who is not God can pray also. Like her Son who on the night before he died interceded for all mankind, Mary intercedes for mankind, seated as Queen of Heaven, the new Mother of all the Living.
Hallowed be Thy Name
Mary’s great song of praise when greeted by her cousin Elizabeth, called the Magnificat, is fittingly inserted here as praise of the Holy Name: “the Almighty has done great things for me, and Holy is His name” (Lk 1:49). As a real man, Jesus learned how to pray in our human language, and he learned primarily from his mother and foster father. Mary’s “holy is His name” becomes her Son’s “Hallowed be Thy Name.”
Thy kingdom come
Mary’s Magnificat praises the justice and mercy of the Father who casts down the mighty, the proud, and the rich, and exalts the lowly. She herself is a recipient of this “topsy-turvy” kingdom, the handmaid who became queen. We too, despite our often humble state in life and our weakness, are made royalty through our participation in the Body of Christ—even infants from the moment of their baptism.
Thy will be done
Here Mary’s greatest word “Fiat, thy will be done” to the announcement of the angel Gabriel is an exact model given by Christ of how we are to respond to God. We must respond with a generous “Yes,” a concession to the fact that our own wills are sometimes set against the ultimate good that God has set before us, namely, our own happiness of living a life with Him. Mary’s will was never turned against the Divine Will, and we can plead with her to make our will conform to God’s just as hers did most magnificently on that day over two thousand years ago.
On earth as it is in heaven
Mary knows well the “earthiness” of the life of faith. We know from Scripture that she performed an act of charity by attending to her elderly cousin in her pregnancy. She also accompanied her Son on His way to Calvary, experiencing the greatest trial of a Mother, witnessing the pain of her Son. Yet despite all the injustice and evil, she remained faithful to the Divine Will. Today, she maintains her allegiance to God’s Will in heaven, body and soul, and helps us to obey it perfectly.
Give us this day our Daily Bread
Mary’s concern with the “hungry” is seen in the Magnificat, where she expresses her confidence that God fills them “with good things,” while the rich, who are self-sufficient either materially or spiritually, do not know how to receive from God and “are sent away empty.” This petition can also be taken in the spiritual, Eucharistic sense. Mary adored her Divine Son on the Cross, held his Body after He was taken down, and witnessed the power of his Resurrection. We too, in our worthy reception of the Eucharist, adore and receive the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ, and it is a great grace to participate in that Sacrifice of the Cross daily, presented to us in the Sacrifice of the Mass.
And forgive us our trespasses
For this petition, Immaculate Mary is silent for her own sake, but as when she told the waiter at the Wedding of Cana, “Do whatever he tells you,” she is powerful to intercede with her Son on behalf of sinners. Her simple advice applies to us now, to again follow the Will of God, and to experience the transformative effect of Jesus’s power in our lives. Mary’s intercession turns the crises in our life into events of joy greater than we have experienced or expected.
As we forgive those who trespass against us
Mary, who heard her Son beg the Father to forgive his persecutors, certainly forgave those same murderers for the killing of her Son. We then ask her in confidence in the “Hail Mary” to remember us “at the hour of our death,” even us sinners who offend her—along with all our neighbors—when we offend God. We can count on her intercession for sinners to gain for us the power of God’s forgiveness.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil
Mary questioned the angel, “What can this greeting mean? For I have no relations with man.” She, in full faith in God, discerned whether this messenger was indeed from God and wanted to be certain that nothing untoward was a part of his message. In confidence in God, we discern whether our perception of His plan is actually His plan, and beg the Father not to let us fall, knowing that without Him, we would certainly perish.
In the final two Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary—the Assumption and the Coronation of the Blessed Virgin—we contemplate our mother as the first full recipient of the Lord’s renewing work. Reigning with Christ in her glorified body, she models what Christians hope to become and prays constantly for us that we be delivered from the ultimate evil.
Image: Michaelangelo, Pieta