|17th Sunday in Ordinary time, 24 July 2016|
From the Dean’s desk
Within the Christian tradition, prayer is considered to be an important aspect of the spiritual life. The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes prayer as the ‘raising of one’s mind and heart to God’, stating that ‘humility is the foundation of prayer’ [CCC #2559]. Our Gospel [Luke 11:1-13] today presents us with the pattern, method and disposition needed for Christian prayer. The Lord’s Prayer, presented in today’s gospel as the way of prayer is described by the Catechism as the ‘the summary of the whole gospel’ [CCC # 2761]. Does this prayer which is presented to us by Jesus become a prayer or is it simply a pattern to be used for prayer? The Lord’s Prayer has become such an important part of our Christian spirituality that it can be considered as both pattern and prayer.
So what constitutes this prayer pattern that Jesus presents to us? There is a certain flow that should be part of our prayer. Firstly, is should begin with an acknowledgment of our relationship with God – that we are God’s children through the redemptive action of Jesus’ death and Resurrection. It should then acclaim that we wish God’s Kingdom – not ours -to be established in our lives and world. In this way we are humbly submitting our desires to the greater good of God’s ways and acknowledging the reverence and respect we need to direct towards God. In simplicity and practicality, we need to place our needs before God – ‘give us each day our daily bread’. The ‘bread’ we ask for consists of what we need this day in order to live that day to the fullest as a child of God. This pattern of prayer asks God to forgive our past and present sinfulness because we too need render forgiveness to those who have sinned against us. Christian prayer then looks towards the future and asks for the strength, fortitude and wisdom to overcome whatever difficulties and temptations may lay ahead.
Luke then has Jesus relate a parable that stresses the element of perseverance in prayer [Luke 11:5-8]. This is the story of going to a friend’s house in the middle of the night to ask for food because some unexpected visitor has arrived. If friendship does not move the man to give him his request, then the man’s persistence (or ‘the man’s shamelessness’ as in other translations) will win him over. This persistence in prayer is further stressed in the concluding statements of the passage which suggest that what we ask of God will be given to us simply because the ‘heavenly Father will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him’ [v 13].
When we ponder the words of the Lord’s Prayer, we can consider that it is truly a risky prayer because it asks us to allow God’s will and kingdom to be established in our world and lives. It becomes a truly humble way of turning everything over to God, knowing that God will always give us what is good for us, even though we may not be totally aware of or approving of the outcome! The ultimate force and impact of the Lord’s Prayer is that it becomes more than just a series of words and phrases. It suggests that we live our lives according to God’s ways and demands and not our own. In conclusion, we should enable all our prayer to follow this pattern: to begin with a recognition of and praise of God’s presence in our world; to ask for our daily ‘bread’ (what we need to sustain us throughout the day); for forgiveness of our sins; for the courage to forgive others; and for the power and strength to withstand temptations. Does my prayer follow that pattern?
Fr Robert Bossini