Discovering the Lord of the prayer.
Thursday – 11th week in Ordinary time- Matthew 6: 7-15
Rattling the Lord’s Prayer has become second nature to most of us. Jesus gave us this prayer in the context of how we ought not to pray, and rattling it was certainly not on His mind. Empty phrases do not please Our God and so Jesus gave us this simple prayer of dependence before Our God. Our rediscovery of this prayer may help us to understand the gift given to us in this precious prayer.
This prayer of Jesus emanated from His heart; yet in more ways than one it was revolutionary. Addressing God as ‘Abba’ Father, was unheard of. The name of Yahweh itself was never uttered in the Old Testament. In giving us the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus brings in a dimension of intimacy and trust between the believer and God. God is no longer that distant vengeful God, but a loving Father.
The prayer has a strong communitarian dimension. It may be said by a disciple or by a community of disciples but it is always said keeping the petitions of all in mind. The prayer begins with the word ‘our’ and this word is scattered all through the prayer. This fifty eight word prayer has the words ‘our’ and ‘us’, seven times and at least each time in every petition.
Pope Benedict XVI, commenting on the Lord’s Prayer said, “The Christian does not say “My Father” but “Our Father”, even in the secrecy of a closed room, because he knows that in every place, on every occasion, he is a member of one and the same body.”
It is the only prayer that Our Lord Himself taught His disciples and hence it is called the ‘Lord’s prayer’. The full form of this prayer includes the words, “for thine is the kingdom the power and the glory forever” yet it does not appear in the scripture text. This is because it was mentioned ‘as early as the Teaching of the Twelve Apostle (Didache AD 150) and so it can be added to the Our Father’ (Youcat).
The prayer contains seven petitions to the Father in heaven. The first three petitions relate to God and the right way of serving Him. The last four petitions present our basic human needs; both spiritual and physical. Clearly it teaches us that praise of God comes before petitions of personal need.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church calls this more than a prayer. It is a path that leads us directly to the heart of the Father and is a summary of the whole gospel (Tertullian). This is one prayer that has been said right from the early church till today, several times a day, in every continent if not every nation.
Interestingly, this prayer was not given to us to understand the language of God as much as it was given to us to understand God. Perhaps the awe in which the disciples first received this prayer has long disappeared in the minds of the modern believer. It bothers me that as disciples by convention, we know neither the language of God nor God Himself.
The privilege of calling God ‘Father’, the joy of being one body, the dependence on God for daily basic needs and the grace to acknowledge failures in our life, is all given to the disciple who requests for salvation. Seven petitions, one prayer, one community one Lord. The gospel of today is an invitation to discover the Lord of the prayer.
Fr Warner D’Souza
References from the Youcat.
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