What we are to ask of God and in what order, the Master and Lord of all has Himself taught and commanded. For prayer is the ambassador and interpreter of our thoughts and desires; and consequently we pray well and properly when the order of our petitions follows the order in which the things sought are desirable.
Now, genuine charity tells us to direct our whole soul and all our affections to God, for He alone being the one supreme Good, it is but reasonable that we love Him with superior and singular love. On the other hand, God cannot be loved from the heart and above all things else, unless we prefer His honour and glory to all things created. For all the good that we or others possess, all that in any way bears the name of good, comes from Him, and is therefore inferior to Him, the sovereign Good.
Hence, that our prayers may be made with due order, our Saviour has placed this Petition regarding the sovereign Good at the head of all the other Petitions of the Lord's Prayer, thus showing us that before asking the things necessary for ourselves or for others, we ought to ask those that appertain to God's honour, and to manifest and make known to Him the affections and desires of our hearts in this regard. Acting thus, we shall be faithful to the claims and rules of charity, which teaches us to love God more than ourselves and to ask, in the first place, those things we desire on His account, and next, those things we desire on our own.
But as our desires and petitions concern such things only as are needed, and as nothing can be added to God; that is to say. to the Divine Nature, nor can His Divine Substance, which is ineffably rich in all perfection, be in any way increased, we must remember that the things we ask of God on God's own account are extrinsic and concern His exterior glory.
Thus we desire and beg that His name may be more and better known in the world, that His kingdom may be extended, and that each day new servants may come to obey His holy will. These three things, His name, His kingdom, and obedience (to His will), do not appertain to the intrinsic nature and perfection of God, but are extrinsic thereto.
To enable the faithful to understand still more clearly the force and bearing of these Petitions, the pastor should take care to point out to them that the words, On earth as it is in heaven, may be understood of each of the first three Petitions, as follows: Hallowed be thy name on earth as it is in heaven; Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven; and, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
In praying that the name of God may be hallowed, our meaning is that the sanctity and glory of the divine name may be increased.
But in this connection the pastor should observe and should point out to his pious hearers that our Saviour does not in this expression say that the name of God is to be sanctified on earth in the same manner as it is in heaven; that is, that its earthly sanctification is to be equal in magnificence to its heavenly, a thing which is absolutely impossible, but only that such sanctification proceed from love and from the inmost affections of the soul. True, indeed, the divine name has in itself no need to be sanctified, since it is terrible and holy,' as God Himself in His very Nature is holy, nor can any holiness be attributed Him which He has not possessed from all eternity; yet seeing that here below an honour far inferior to that which He deserves is rendered to Him, and that sometimes even He is dishonoured by cursing and blasphemy, we therefore desire and beg that His name may be exalted here on earth with praise, honour, and glory, after the example of that praise, honour and glory which are given Him in heaven.
In other words we pray that our minds, our souls and our lips may be so devoted to the honour and worship of God as to glorify Him. with all veneration both interior and exterior, and, after the model of the heavenly citizens, to celebrate with all our might the greatness, the glory and the holiness of the name of God.
Thus, then, as the heavenly spirits with perfect unanimity exalt and glorify God, so do we pray that the same be done over all the earth; that all nations may come to know, worship, and reverence God; that all without a single exception may embrace the Christian religion, may devote themselves wholly to the service of God, and may be convinced that in Him is the source of all sanctity and that there is nothing pure, nothing holy, that does not proceed from the sanctity of His divine name. According to the testimony of the Apostle, The church is cleansed by the laver of water in the word of life. and the word of life signifies the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost in which we are baptised and sanctified.
And since there is no expiation, no purity, no integrity, in him over whom the divine name has not been invoked, we desire and pray that all mankind may abandon the darkness of their impious infidelity, and, enlightened by the rays of divine light, may come to recognise the power of this name and look to it alone for true sanctity, and that thus receiving the Sacrament of Baptism in the name of the holy and undivided Trinity, they may receive the plenitude of sanctity from the right hand of God Himself.
Moreover, our desires and our supplications extend equally to those, who, stained with sin and wickedness, have lost the purity of their Baptism and their robe of innocence, thus permitting the unclean spirit to take up his abode once more in their unhappy souls. We therefore desire and pray God that in these also His name may be sanctified; that they may reenter into themselves and, returning to a right frame of mind, may recover their former holiness through the Sacrament of Penance, and become once more the pure and holy temple and dwellingplace of God.
Finally, we pray that God may make His light to shine on the minds of all, so as to enable them to see that every best gift and e very perfect gift coming from the Father of lights, is conferred on us by Him, and consequently that temperance, justice, life, health, in a word, all goods of soul, body and possessions, all goods both natural and supernatural, must be recognised as gifts given by Him from whom, as the Church proclaims, proceed all blessings. If the sun by its light, if the stars by their motion and revolutions, are of any advantage to man; if the air with which we are surrounded serves to sustain us; if the earth with its abundance of produce and its fruits furnishes the means of subsistence to all men; if our rulers by their vigilance enable us to enjoy peace and tranquillity, it is to the infinite goodness of God that we owe these and innumerable blessings of a similar kind,nay, those very causes which philosophers call secondary, we should regard as so many hands of God, wonderfully fashioned and fitted for our use, by means of which He distributes His blessings and diffuses them everywhere in profusion.
But what we most particularly ask in this Petition is that all may acknowledge and revere the spouse of Jesus Christ, our most holy mother the Church, in which alone is to be found the copious and inexhaustible fountain that cleanses and effaces all the stains of sin, and from which are drawn all the Sacraments of salvation and sanctification, those Sacraments through which, like so many sacred channels, is diffused over us by the hand of God the dew, of sanctity. To that Church alone and to those whom she embraces in her bosom and holds in her arms, appertains the invocation of that divine name, outside of which there is no other name under heaven given to men whereby we must be saved.
The pastor should be careful to insist particularly on the fact that it is the duty of a good son not only to pray to God his Father in words, but also to endeavour by his conduct and actions to promote the sanctification of the divine name. And would to God there were none who, though continually praying for the sanctification of God's name, yet, as far as in them lies, violate and profane it by their deeds, and by whose fault God Himself is sometimes blasphemed. It was of such as these that the Apostle said: The name of God through you is blasphemed among the Gentiles; and in Ezechiel we read: They entered among the nations whither they went, and profaned my holy name, when it was said of them: "This is the people of the Lord, and they are come forth out of his land"; for according to the sort of life and conduct led by those professing a particular religion, so precisely in the eyes of the unlettered multitude will be the opinion held of that religion and of its author.
Those, therefore, who live according to the dictates of the Christian religion which they have embraced, and who regulate their prayers and actions by its precepts, furnish others with a powerful motive for greatly praising, honouring and glorifying the name of our heavenly Father. As for us, it is a duty which the Lord has imposed on us, to lead others by shining deeds of virtue to praise and glorify the name of God. This is how He addresses us in the Gospel: Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven; and the Prince of the Apostles says: Having your conversation good among the Gentiles, that they may, by the good works which they shall behold in you, glorify God.