Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test.” – Lk 11:1-4
Today, we see how one of Jesus’ disciples tells him: “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples” (Lk 11:1). Of course, Jesus replies with arguably, the most inspiring and well-known prayer that we (Catholics) recite at every Mass and other Christian denominations do as well; the Lord’s Prayer, the “Our Father.” If we step back and create an image of what this might look like, our prayer life can be seen as that of Father and Child.
As we recite this prayer and look at the beauty of His words, we can see that He wants for us to have a close relationship with Him, He wants us to be like family because, after all, we are family. We are His beloved sons and daughters. The image of God as a father speaks to us of a relationship based on affection and intimacy, not on power and authority.
To pray as Christians mean to position ourselves in a situation whereby we see God as our Father and we speak to Him as His sons and daughters. When children speak with their parents they try to transmit, through their words and body language, what they feel in their heart. We become better-praying men and women when our relationship with God is more intimate, like that of a father with his son or daughter.
I used to think that praying was difficult, that it needed to be this grandiose, verbose way of “asking for something.” Of course, as I grew older and realized that is not what prayer is all about, my approach to prayer changed. Today, I never let a chance go by to stop and pray. My life is never too busy to take a moment to say “thank you” or to ask for His intercession in the life of someone I just met. Since I was a child, I would cross myself whenever I saw an ambulance because I knew someone needed assistance, certainly more than I could give and so I wanted to ensure that through His help, they would be comforted.
With prayer though, we cannot be complacent, we cannot let our prayers become something done by rote. Each time we pray, whether big or small, we must do so with one aim in mind; to be closer to God. We must do so in a right relationship with God. Whether we already hold these attitudes in our heart or not, the beauty of prayer is not what we say, but how we say it. If we pray the Lord’s Prayer or any other prayer, trying to make them our own, conforming our heart to the attitudes they express, then little by little we will form a Christian heart, a heart that loves the way it should.
Our conversion to Christ is a change of attitudes from those of the world to those of a Christian. Every day, the world proposes its attitudes as something good that should be lived. But often what the world proposes as good is actually harmful to us. How do we resist? By constantly repeating to ourselves and meditating on Christian attitudes. This is what can happen in using traditional prayers such as the Lord’s Prayer. It is a way of helping our heart understand and embrace the Christianity we profess.
As you spend time in prayer today, and I pray that you will, whether it be a traditional prayer or one that strikes you at the moment, do not rush through the prayer. Allow each word to take a place in your heart. Say each phrase and repeat it, as necessary, not moving on to the next phrase until we feel that we have really gotten to the bottom of what it is saying. If you are not used to daily prayer or praying multiple times per day, take it slowly. Commit to yourself that for 1 minute, 2 minutes, 5 minutes each morning, you will sit in silence with the Lord and speak with Him. Or, maybe that prayer will take place at the end of your day when you can share the events of your day with the Lord.
Just as a child is excited to come home from school or playing with a friend and sit down with Mom and/or Dad and talk about their experience, it is the same for us and the Lord. We should be excited and enthused to sit down with our Heavenly Father and share our day with Him, our thoughts with Him, our desires with Him. Through the power of prayer, He can help us to transform our own lives and the lives of others.
Peace and Blessings.