The Gospel according to Matthew (6:7-15)
Jesus said to his disciples: “In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. This is how you are to pray: ‘Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’ If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.”
Opening Prayer: Lord, I sometimes say this sacred prayer like a pagan, mouthing the words without thinking. Help me to renew my love for the “Our Father” during this time of reflection.
Encountering Christ: Have you ever been in a conversation with someone, make a comment and that person says I was just going to say that? Often, when conversing with my wife, we will say, “I was just thinking that”. Jesus tells us in today’s gospel that our Father knows what we need before we ask him. Then why pray?
We do not pray because God needs anything from us. We pray so that we can experience the love of our Father in a personal and communal way. Prayer is not a repetition or recitation of words but a dialog with our Divine Creator that involves a familial, familiar intimacy of a father and child.
It also reminds us that we are dependents of the Father not the other way around. We depend on our Father for all our needs both material and spiritual. And like a child we ask our Father in humble sincerity for His presence, acceptance of His will, our daily needs, forgiveness, and protection. This is what His son taught us to ask for.
Isn’t it interesting that immediately after he taught his followers this prayer he emphasizes the importance of forgiveness? He puts it is such a way that the focus is not on our forgiveness but in our ability and willingness to forgive others. If we do this then our heavenly Father will forgive us, but if we don’t then he won’t.
This reminds me of one of the most beautiful and significant parables Jesus shared, the Prodigal Son. I am sure we are all familiar with this epic tale of sin, betrayal, and forgiveness. I once heard the following in a reflection about this parable, “Repentance walks, forgiveness runs!”. I still get choked up when I think about those words because of the image the presenter offered us. He said, the repentant son, as he practiced what he wanted to say walked home toward his father and as soon as his father saw him he ran to his son, embraced him and showered him with love and affection.
Does our daily prayer have room for the desire, courage, and tenderness to forgive? Are we willing, like our Father, to run and offer an embrace filled with love and affection for those that need our forgiveness? Because it is then the forgiveness we seek from our Father will shower down upon us. And all our needs, not our wants will be recognized by the Great Provider one day at a time.
He is “Our Father”. Not just mine, yours, those who look like, act, think, or believe like us. He is the Father of all humankind. Let our prayers always include everyone and the grace to forgive so that we may receive all the gifts God wants us to have today and always.
Closing Prayer: Merciful Father, your son, our brother taught us to pray in such a way that we acknowledge your divine providence but also your intense desire to provide for all our needs. May our time in dialog with you produce the fruit of mercy and compassion to heal the broken hearted.
Action for the Day: Pray the Our Father slowly, pausing with patience and listen to Holy Spirit. These are not just words they are a plea for the grace we need every day. Receive that grace as it is always meant, to return to God through the ministry of presence, compassion, and mercy. There is someone who needs your forgiveness. You know who it is. Go, give it and you will receive.