Wednesday, 27th Week in Ordinary Time
Jesus’ disciples ask him, “Lord, teach us to pray.” The Lord gives them and us the Our Father. It is both a prayer and a school of prayer. It displays three essential elements of prayer: intimacy, surrender, and trust.
First, the Lord’s Prayer teaches us intimacy. As Christians we have a special relationship with the Father through his Son. By telling us to call his Abba our Abba, Jesus is inviting us to share in the same intimacy he has with the Father. Any prayer, therefore, that sees God as a remote super being, for whose attention and assistance we have to compete or as an unconcerned king from whom we must wrest favors may sound like a prayer but it is not Christian prayer. Christian prayer speaks confidently to God as “our Father.”
Second, the Lord’s Prayer teaches us surrender. The first group of petitions acknowledges that God’s name must be hallowed, that God’s kingdom may come. Matthew’s version adds: that God’s will be done. We also say that we abandon ourselves to the care and providence of the Father. Any prayer that tries to manipulate or control God, or tries to ‘change’ God’s will according to ours, or tries to turn God into a “genie in a bottle” so that he must grant our wishes is not Christian prayer. Christian prayer, in essence, is simply a way of saying: “Lord, your kingdom come, not mine. Your will be done, not mine.”
Third, the Lord’s Prayer teaches us trust. We are to present all our needs to the Father with trust and confidence. Naming our needs, challenges us to recognize our deepest desires. It is based on the conviction that the caring, gracious and generous Father of Jesus is always attentive to the needs of all who turn to him in prayer. Any prayer that does not come from our real self, that uses rhetorical flourishes to flatter God rather than reflect what is in our heart may sound like a prayer but it is not Christian prayer. The Lord’s Prayer teaches us to trust God with the truth about ourselves: we are his beloved children.
Intimacy, surrender, and trust – those are the elements of the prayer Jesus himself taught us.