A Catholic Monthly Magazine

The Prayer after the Our Father

Fr Merv Duffy sm

by Fr Merv Duffy sm

After the Our Father the priest says the following prayer:
Deliver us, Lord, we pray, from every evil, graciously grant peace in our days, that, by the help of your mercy, we may be always free from sin and safe from all distress, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
In the older English translation he prayed:
Deliver us, Lord, from every evil, and grant us peace in our day. In your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

An attentive Catholic asked me why we used to wait for one thing and now we’re expecting two. He was picking up on the difference between “wait in joyful hope for the coming” and “await the blessed hope and the coming”. The short answer is it is still the one and the same thing we are waiting for. The story of why it sounds like two takes a bit longer to tell.

First of all, this is not a new prayer. It is very ancient. It can be found in Greek Eastern liturgies as well as Latin Western liturgies so it probably dates from back before the 600s. A plausible suggestion is that the emphasis on peace in the prayer, “grant us peace in our day”, reflects the situation of the time of the decline of the Roman Empire when there were many wars and much unrest.

Secondly, it is a repeat and amplification of the last petition of the Our Father “deliver us from evil” which makes it a “gloss” -- an explanation, interpretation, or paraphrase. Like us, the early Christians wondered about the meaning of that phrase. What evil do we want to be delivered from?

The explanation the prayer offers is thoroughly universal: we want delivery from every evil, especially from the evils of war.

Often when in liturgy there is an addition, the language used is scriptural. Two texts have influenced this prayer. Here they are in rather literal translation:
John 17:15 – I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.
Titus 2:11-14 - For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.

The new translation makes this dependence on scripture clearer. So the question of what the blessed hope and the coming of our Saviour means, becomes: What did the author of the Letter to Titus mean when he wrote the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Christ Jesus?

Scripture scholars agree that there is one thing being mentioned, not two; the blessed hope and the appearing are one and the same. The phrase “blessed hope” appears only in this verse of the bible, it probably means “the hope that brings blessing”. The first “and” is equal to “even” or “namely”, acting like an equals sign, expanding and explaining what stands before it. Paraphrasing gives the sense of what we are waiting for “the hope that brings blessing, namely the appearing ...”

We await the blessed hope .

We await the blessed hope .

So, like my astute friend, I encourage you to ponder this little prayer. The priest is unpacking back to you the line of the Our Father you have just prayed: “Deliver us from evil”. The Mass dialogue is usually led by the priest and responded to by the people, but this one is the other way around. It is like an explanatory pause in the prayer, pondering on what evil the Lord’s Prayer keeps at bay. Then reassured that it is every evil, including the external evils of war and the internal evils of personal sin, from which the mercy of God sheilds us, we conclude that section by praying together in praise of God the Father “For yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen”.

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