( A commentary on Matthew 6: 7-15 )
Jesus said to his disciples: “In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. This is how you are to pray: ‘Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’ If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.” (Matthew 6:7-15)
We learned it as children. We pray it daily. We have imprinted it in our minds and our hearts.
But sometimes something that is so rote becomes exactly that. It is so familiar to us that some treat it as routinely as saying “Good Morning”.
Yet it has a power to change, to comfort, to sustain. The Lord’s Prayer was given to us by Jesus so that we would forever be reminded of the relationship between us and God, our Father.
How appropriate that the gift of the Lord’s Prayer came from Jesus.
God is greater than us, but Jesus is one of us. He understands what it is to experience human fear. He understands what it is to worry about those we love. He knows what it means to feel helpless, because he was helpless before those who crucified him. Therefore, when we turn to God in prayer, it is important for us to understand that Jesus knows us completely. As our brother, he knows our vulnerability. He feels our fear. He strengthens us to hand our lives into our Father’s hands.
He hands our lives into our Father’s hands. Think of the imagery that is inherent in those words . . . our father’s hands.
Just as a father will stop and comfort a child who is lonely, or bruised, or lonely, our father is there to offer the same comfort, the same love.
That is what prayer is and the essence of prayer is captured in the Lord’s Prayer. It’s not about words repeated endlessly nor is it a composition by a learned scholar.
It’s about us as children seeking to be held and to be cared for. Just as a child is not hesitant to ask to be picked up, to be fed and nourished, to always know love, we too show our need. We lift up our arms and open our hearts. We cry out to our father and show our need.
And the beauty and the power of opening ourselves to is that God never forgets that we are beloved daughters and sons. For all of our faults and all of our failings, God continues to look at us with love. This is what we must listen to. This is what we must never forget.
God loves us with the same love that God loves Jesus. When things are going wrong, when you cannot find a way out, when you are beginning to think that God is punishing you, remember: God is not about punishing you. God is about loving you with a love that never ends. When you become overwhelmed with grief, with sickness, with an emptiness that will not let you go, remember: God’s love for you is everlasting.
If we knock on the door to God’s love, it will open. It probably will not turn us immediately into a perfect loving person, or give us exactly what we want through our petitions but the road onto which that door opens is a road that leads to life. For prayer is talking to God as our father who loves us. It’s all about bringing our needs to God and trusting our father to act.
Each time we pray we touch our father’s heart. In his love for us, he stays with us until we are comforted.
Remember always that it was Jesus who taught us to pray. In his human condition, he knows our vulnerability and understands our needs. He asks us to hand over our lives to God his father.
He reminds us that our hopes and our fears are always before God. You are not one among millions of people. Indeed, as Jesus tells us “You are God’s favored daughter”. “You are God’s beloved son” Listen to those words and claim your place, through prayer, upon the very heart of God, our Father.
Prayer of The Day
“Father in heaven, you have given me a mind to know you, a will to serve you, and a heart to love you. Give me today the grace and strength to embrace your holy will and fill my heart with your love that all my intentions and actions may be pleasing to you. Give me the grace to be charitable in thought, kind in deed, and loving in speech towards all.”
We can approach God confidently because he is waiting with arms wide open to receive his prodigal sons and daughters. That is why Jesus gave his disciples the perfect prayer that dares to call God, Our Father. This prayer teaches us how to ask God for the things we really need, the things that matter not only for the present but for eternity as well. We can approach God our Father with confidence and boldness because the Lord Jesus has opened the way to heaven for us through his death and resurrection.