Lord, Teach Us To Pray

Dear Friends,

Last week Abraham gave three ‘angels’ hospitality when he could have had his servants do it, and it turned out to be God himself.  This week God comes to see him about the situation of Sodom and Gomorrah.  It is not part of the text we hear but just prior to it God is also wondering if he should tell Abraham about his plan for these cities.   Can the innocence of a few save all?  Abraham seemed to think so and had enough courage to keep asking if ten good men were enough to save them.  Abraham interceded for the inhabitants of these cities.  It is a reminder of the holy privilege we also have to pray for the lost and the needy.

It is encouraging that the disciples asked Jesus how to pray and not how to do miracles or how to preach (Luke 11: 1-13).   We can get so used to saying the Our Father we may easily miss so of its freshness.  For instance, Jesus doesn’t start it by saying O, King, or O, Lord and Master, but Father, Abba in Aramaic, which means something like Dad, Daddy.  This was something amazing for a Jewish person.

And then he says: Holy be thy name.  What does he mean by this?  Isn’t his name already holy?  Of course it is.  But does the one who prays make God’s name holy?  We are asking that his name be made holy in us, in our hearts and wills.  This is not so easy.   Do we have a faith which shows that God’s name is revered in my house and in my life?  Do I teach that to others?

Something similar is true for the second petition: your kingdom come.  God is never without a kingdom and all are subject to him.  This prayer is asking that his kingdom come within us, and that we be found in that kingdom.  Our desire ought to be to live in a way that we can actually share in this kingdom.  This is the same kingdom that is given to all the saints.  Fr. Flanagan from Boy’s Town, played by Spencer Tracy in the movie, is being studied by the Vatican to see if he is a saint.  It is a prayer for us: that we may lead, or have the desire to lead, truly Christian lives, to be saints.

And then give us today our supersubstantial bread.  This is a very uncommon word in the gospels; it is used only twice.  The word seems to mean the same substance as Christ himself.  It points towards the Eucharist, which should be the kingdom for us.  When we have Christ we have the kingdom, what more do we need?

Luke’s version states that we will be forgiven our sins since we have forgiven everyone who is indebted to us.  The same gentleness that we show to others will be shown to us by our Heavenly Father, who gives justly, and knows how to show mercy to all.

At the end of the gospel it seems that Jesus is saying to us not only do I tell you a parable about the need to persist in prayer, I tell you personally…keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking.  Your father knows what you need but he may want to see is it really important for you.  Your father who knows will give you the best of all things.  And what is the best of all things?  It is the Holy Spirit!

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