The Lord has already taught us to pray for forgiveness of our sins, and how to avoid temptations. In this petition, He teaches us to pray to be preserved from evil, and indeed from all evil in general, such as sin, illness, affliction and all others, as St. Augustine explains it. But since we have already mentioned sin and temptation, we now must consider other evils, such as adversity and all afflictions of this world. From these God preserves us in a fourfold manner.
First, He preserves us from affliction itself; but this is very rare because it is the lot of the just in this world to suffer, for it is written: "All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." Once in a while, however, God does prevent a man from being afflicted by some evil; this is when He knows such a one to be weak and unable to bear it. Just so a physician does not prescribe violent medicines to a weak patient. "Behold, I have given before thee a door opened, which no man can shut; because thou hast little strength." In heaven this will be a general thing, for there no one shall be afflicted. "In six troubles," those, namely, of this present life which is divided into six periods, "He shall deliver thee, and in the seventh evil shall not touch thee." "They shall no more hunger nor thirst."
Second, God delivers us from afflictions when He consoles us in them; for unless He console us, we could not long persevere: "We were pressed out of measure above our strength so that we were weary even of life." "But God, who comforteth the humble, comforted us." "According to the multitude of my sorrows in my heart, Thy comforts have given joy to my soul."
Third, God bestows so many good things upon those who are afflicted that their evils are forgotten: "After the storm Thou makest a calm." The afflictions and trials of this world, therefore, are not to be feared, both because consolations accompany them and because they are of short duration: "For that which is at present momentary and light of our tribulation, worketh for us above measure exceedingly an eternal weight of glory."
Fourth, we are preserved from afflictions in this way that all temptations and trials are conducive to our own good. We do not pray, "Deliver us from tribulation," but "from evil." This is because tribulations bring a crown to the just, and for that reason the Saints rejoiced in their sufferings: "We glory also in tribulations, knowing that tribulation worketh patience." "In time of tribulation Thou forgivest sins."
THE VALUE OF PATIENCE
God, therefore, delivers man from evil and from affliction by converting them to his good. This is a sign of supreme wisdom to divert evil to good. And patience in bearing trials is a result of this. The other virtues operate by good things, but patience operates in evil things, and, indeed, it is very necessary in evil things, namely, in adversity: "The learning of a man is known by his patience."
The Holy Spirit through the gift of wisdom has us use this prayer, and by it we arrive at supreme happiness which is the reward of peace. For it is by patience we obtain peace, whether in time of prosperity or of adversity. For this reason the peace-makers are called the children of God, because they are like to God in this, that nothing can hurt God and nothing can hurt them, whether it be prosperity or adversity: "Blessed are the peace-makers, for they shall be called the children of God."
"Amen." This is general ratification of all the petitions.
A SHORT EXPLANATION OF THE WHOLE PRAYER
By way of brief summary, it should be known that the Lord's Prayer contains all that we ought to desire and all that we ought to avoid. Now, of all desirable things, that must be most desired which is most loved, and that is God.
Therefore, you seek, first of all, the glory of God when you say: "Hallowed be Thy name." You should desire three things from God, and they concern yourself. The first is that you may arrive at eternal life. And you pray for this when you say: "Thy kingdom come." The second is that you will do the will of God and His justice. You pray for this in the words: "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." The third is that you may have the necessaries of life. And thus you pray: "Give us this day our daily bread." Concerning all these things the Lord says: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God," which complies with the second, "and all these things shall be added unto you," as in accord with the third.
We must avoid and flee from all things which are opposed to the good. For, as we have seen, good is above all things to be desired. This good is fourfold. First, there is the glory of God, and no evil is contrary to this: "If thou sin, what shalt thou hurt Him? And if thou do justly, what shall thou give Him?" Whether it be the evil inasmuch as God punishes it, or whether it be the good in that God rewards it--all redound to His glory.
The second good is eternal life, to which sin is contrary: because eternal life is lost by sin. And so to remove this evil we pray: "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." The third good is justice and good works, and temptation is contrary to this, because temptation hinders us from doing good. We pray, therefore, to have this evil taken away in the words: "Lead us not into temptation." The fourth good is all the necessaries of life, and opposed to this are troubles and adversities. And we seek to remove them when we pray: "But deliver us from evil. Amen."
(For "Questions for Discussion" see Chapter 6.)
1. "Our Lord Himself made use of this petition when on the eve of His passion He prayed to God His Father for the salvation of all mankind. He said, 'I pray that Thou keep them from evil' (John, xvii. 15). In this form of prayer He, as it were, summarized the force and efficacy of the other petitions; and He
delivered it by way of precept and confirmed it by example" ("Roman Catechism," "loc. cit.," Chapter XVI, 1).
2. II Tim., iii. 12.
3. Apoc., iii. 8.
4. Job, v. 19.
5. Apoc., vii. 16.
6. II Cor., i. 8.
7. "Ibid.," vii. 6.
8. Ps. xciii. 19.
9. Tob., iii. 22.
10. II Cor., iv. 17.
11. Rom., v. 3.
12. Tob., iii. 13.
13. Prov., xix. 11.
14. Matt., v. 9
15. 'The word 'Amen' which brings the Lord's Prayer to a close contains, as it were, the germs of many of those thoughts and considerations which we have just treated Indeed, so frequent was this Hebrew word in the mouth of Our Lord that it pleased the Holy. Spirit to have it retained in the Church of God. The meaning of it may be said to be: 'Know that thy prayers are heard.' It has the force of a response, as if God answers the prayer of the suppliant and graciously dismisses him after He has kindly heard his prayers" ("Roman Catechism," "loc. cit.," Chapter xvii. 4).
16. Matt., vi. 33.
17. Job, xxxv. 6, 7.