A Reading from the Gospel According to Luke 11:1-4
Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray just 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 in debt to us and do not subject us to the final test.”
Opening Prayer: Almighty and ever-living God, who in the abundance of your kindness surpass the merits and the desires of those who entreat you, pour out your mercy upon us to pardon what conscious dreads and to give what prayer does not dare to ask. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God forever and ever. Amen
The disciples were looking outward at John and his disciples, at Jesus in prayer. Jesus suggests to them that their prayer might begin by looking in, by starting with our most important relationships. To call God ‘Father’ is to recognize where my life comes from and establishes me in relation to others. If I focus on my needs, it is so that I might grow in trust as I recognize who is ready to answer them.
Of all the Gospel writers, St. Luke shows Jesus praying most often. Jesus was praying in a certain place, he tells us this. And he mentions this multiple times throughout his Gospel. Imagine that. Jesus, the incarnate Second Person of the Holy Trinity, goes off alone every day to pray. Why would God himself need to take time away from his pressing activities to pray? This simple fact reveals so much. First, it gives us a glimpse into the life of the Trinity. Remember, the Trinity is three Persons in one Nature. Three real Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, with real relationships. Jesus went off to pray because he cared about those relationships, about nourishing them and being nourished by them. Second, in his human nature, our Lord entered into the limits of time and space. His Trinitarian relationships, in some mysterious way, needed to participate in that. We share that same human nature, and we have been made participants in the divine nature through baptism. So we too can expect that the development of our relationships with the Trinity will require time alone with God. It’s all well and good to say that we are “always praying,” and that is indeed our ideal. But if Jesus himself felt a need to go off to be alone with his Father and the Holy Spirit on a daily basis, why would we ever think that we could make our Christian journey without doing the same?
The disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray. They had been watching him. They had been traveling with him, seeing how he passed his time. Clearly, prayer was an anchor for the Lord. Clearly, the disciples recognized that their own life of prayer was not at the same level as Jesus’ prayer. But they wanted to grow, to improve. They wanted their prayer life to be what it should be. So, they asked the master to teach them. That’s what disciples do: they learn from the master; they thirst for more and seek to grow. How is my thirst? How is my desire to grow, to learn, to follow Jesus more closely? To be someone’s apprentice means much more than learning some information about something. To be an apprentice, a disciple, is to learn a whole style of living; it’s a full-time adventure. And since Christ is infinite in his divine wisdom, we will always have more to learn from him. Our full-time adventure of discipleship will never end. We just have to keep nourishing our desire to live more like Jesus, to learn from him, to discover all the ups and downs of our daily life and all of the lessons he wants to teach us as well as all the graces he wants to give us. Then, when we are ready for the everlasting adventure of heaven, he will take us home.
So many things strike us about this prayer, which in itself is a revelation about what being a Christian really means. It shows that Christianity is eminently relational. We address God as “Father.” We address him together with our brothers and sisters: “Give us this day…” We address him in the context of needing not only material support but also relational healing: “forgive us our sins.” This great, unique religion of the Incarnation is a vibrant, ongoing restoration of relationships that sin has broken. Our Lord presents even our moral duties in this prayer as relational: “for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us.” Christianity is not a moral code. Christianity is not a one-time acceptance of a creed. Christianity is a faith journey, with all the vibrancy and drama that comes with a commitment to any meaningful relationship. If it ever starts to feel dry, boring, or predictable, we can be sure that we have strayed far from its true path.
Closing prayer: We live in a world of many kingdoms where there is much inequality in sharing resources, let us pray for the coming of the Lord’s kingdom of justice, love and peace. May we have generous hearts, a forgiving spirit and the light of God’s goodness to share with others. We pray that we may love and live in the spirit that Jesus shows us and desires for us.
Action of the Day: Let us spend time praying the Our Father slowly, word for word, savoring the depth and meaning of every phrase, making it our own. It is the Lord’s answer to our petition to teach us how to pray.