He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, 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 indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.”
And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.“
So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
Today’s gospel opens with Jesus’ praying, and then being asked to teach his disciples how to pray as John the Baptist taught his disciples to pray. What follows is Luke’s version of the Our Father. While called the “Lord’s Prayer,” neither Matthew’s nor Luke’s version is Jesus’ prayer. That prayer happens in the agony in the garden and on the cross.
This is how we are to pray. We begin with our relationship to God, really Jesus’ relationship to God as Father. And to Jesus’ Father, who is our Father. Our Father is generous, compassionate, caring, and faithful. In the prayer we are called to honor God’s name, to see the reign of God over us and our world, to forgive each other (daily or hourly?), to hope that we can be like God, faithful to and at the end.
The early Church prayed this prayer three and more times a day. Matthew’s version is part of the liturgy. When we prepare adults to be received into the Church, we give them the treasures of the Church—the Our Father and the Creed. St. Ignatius of Loyola teaches what he terms “the second method of prayer”—the Our Father—in the Spiritual Exercises. Ignatius invites us to pull the prayer apart slowly, savoring each word or phrase, letting ourselves be held in Our Father’s arms. This is a prayer for the community, even when said alone. It is a prayer of mission. It is a prayer of trust. It is a prayer of forgiveness—daily, hourly, long term, or right now. How do you pray this prayer? How do you live this prayer?
—Fr. Jim Dixon, S.J. serves as chaplain to the Ignatian Volunteer Corps and is Superior of the Woodlawn Jesuit Residence, Chicago IL.
Quietly pray the “Our Father”