And we called God, Father! Wednesday, 27th Week in ordinary time – Lk 11:1-4
Values are not taught, they are caught and if prayer is a value then the only way to reiterate it as a value is to live it by example. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus does precisely that. It would do well to read the texts mentioned in Luke3:21, 5:16, 6:12, 9:18, 9:28, 10:21-22, 11:1, 22:41-4, 23:46. You will observe that in the Gospel of Luke Jesus is constantly at prayer and the disciples have observed the Master.
To have one’s own distinctive form of prayer was the mark of a religious community and so the disciples seeing Jesus in prayer desire to be taught to pray as John taught his disciples to pray. In response Jesus gives the disciples a prayer, a parable on prayer and a few sayings on prayer ( read 11:1-13) of which today’s Gospel forms the first part.
The prayer given by Jesus has come to be known as the Lord’s Prayer though it can also be called the disciples prayer considering that the disciples asked to be taught how to pray ad it was given to them. This prayer is also found in the Gospel of Matthew but in a much longer format. In the Gospel of Matthew it is Jesus who is instructing His disciples about prayer. He does not want them to pray like the hypocrites and so he gives them a pattern of prayer. In the Gospel of Luke, the prayer is given as a response to a request, “Lord teach us to pray.”
The prayer is simple and direct and consists of five petitions but do not be fooled into believing it to be simplistic. There is radicalness to the prayer. To a people who never dared to utter the name of God the mandate to call him “Abba” or Father was jaw dropping. This is the distinctive feature of Jesus’ prayer. God is no longer up in his heaven but is now an involved, gracious, generous and loving parent.
But the radicalness of this prayer must also be seen in context of the flow of the Gospel of Luke. Yesterday’s Gospel had the lawyer propose that God had to be loved with ‘one’s soul and strength and mind and with the same intensity that love must be shared with ones neighbour.’ Today that God becomes Father TO ALL; Jew and Samaritan.
It is this common sonship that we are called to live. The sonship is a call to equality where all are given (our daily bread), all are forgiven (of sins) and our character is strengthened in the face of the temptation of apostasy.
While I might be tempted to lecture long and hard on the value of prayer, it horribly strikes me that the priesthood has become for many a ‘service provider’ of all things material but not all things spiritual. It pains me when we are praised for our administrative skills and not meaningful spiritual inputs and insights. The reality is that people want us to ‘pray over them’ not pray with them.
Fr Warner D’Souza