Today’s Gospel: Luke 11:1-4
Many times when I sit down to pray, I wonder if I’m doing it correctly. Am I asking for too much? Am I focusing too much on my worries and concerns and not enough on my family and friends? Am I thanking God enough? Am I listening to Him, or am I talking too much? When I conclude my prayer time with an Our Father or a Hail Mary, am I contemplating the prayers, or are they so familiar that my mind starts to wander and I start thinking about what’s next on my to-do list or what’s for dinner?
When I have these worries about getting prayer right, I really do not have to look any further than today’s Gospel reading, where Jesus teaches His disciples how to pray. Because if anyone is the ultimate teacher on how to talk to God, it’s God Himself, right?
Jesus begins His prayer with praise of God. “Hallowed be your name.” Often when I begin my personal prayer time, I try to model Jesus’ method by also beginning with praise and thanksgiving for blessings great and small. Because Jesus directs His prayer to the Father, it is important to note that Jesus is teaching us that the fatherhood of God is the source of our daily sustenance, forgiveness and deliverance from the final trial (according to the footnotes in my New American Bible).
After praising God, Jesus continues by asking for what is needed today. To focus on the moment can provide relief from fear and anxiety about the future. So often, I am burdened by worries, stressed out about every little thing. This causes me to feel anxiety and burnout in my vocation as wife and mother.
Jesus’ instruction to pray for our daily bread reminds me not to be burdened about anything other than what is right in front of me. “Be present in the moment,” so to speak. My pastor often encourages me to focus on this line in the Our Father, as a reminder that God will give me what I need … for today. And then I can pray for what I need tomorrow when tomorrow becomes today!
Jesus continues His teaching on prayer by telling us how essential it is to meditate on God’s forgiveness and mercy. Even though we seek God’s forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we can daily ask for his forgiveness during prayer. Often, it is good to think back upon our day and reflect upon the good things that happened as well as the mistakes we made. Many people call this a daily examination of conscience. St. Ignatius of Loyola considered it to be the single most important spiritual exercise. By reflecting upon our day—and all that happened—we can begin to detect God’s presence in our life and the direction He is taking us. During prayer, we can talk to God about our struggles, asking Him for pardon as well as for help through grace. And certainly when we need to forgive someone who has hurt us, we can ask God to help us forgive him the way God forgives us.
God is the source of all mercy, and His mercy is such a gift for which to be grateful! It is interesting to think about why Jesus includes the final test in His instruction on prayer. But if He includes it, it must be important and something to consider incorporating into our prayer time with God. But we should not be afraid of the final test, but rather ask God’s help, mercy and deliverance from those times when we might be tempted by anything that is not of God.
Jesus gave us something truly remarkable when He gave us the Our Father prayer. Not only did He teach us how to pray, He also gave us a glimpse into His own personal relationship with His Father, inviting us to share in the closeness and intimacy of the Trinity.
What are some of your favorite prayers? How has Jesus’ instruction on prayer shaped your own prayer life?
Thank you, Jesus, for teaching us how to pray! Help us to take Your words and make them our own. We pray that through Your example of intimate prayer with God, we can grow in our own prayer life and relationship with God the Father. Amen.
Copyright 2014 Sarah Damm