Monday, July 31, 2017

"Lord, teach us how to pray..." (Lk 11:1)

After observing the depth, the faithfulness and the fruitfulness of Jesus' prayer, the disciples couldn't help but ask: How can we pray like you, Lord (so we can be more like you)?

Jesus does not get into practical strategies--e.g., posture or breathing techniques or meditation mantras--but he gets really real.  His answer is that we need to enter into his prayer, into his lived relationship with the Father, through his Holy Spirit.

The Lord's Prayer is a summary of the Gospel because it draws us into the mystery of Our Father's personal quest for an intimate relationship with each of his created sons and daughters.  In and through his un-created Son, by the power of his proceeding Spirit, the Father seeks to draw each of us into intimacy with the Blessed Trinity's eternal exchange of Love.

But we are practical people with many day-to-day concerns--not unlike the first disciples (!)--and so we want to know what this lesson on prayer means for us right now.  Here are seven suggestions, following the seven petitions of the Lord's Prayer:

  • (Re)Claim and (Re)Frame our lives in terms of relationship with our eternal Father. When we pray that the Father's name be holy, "we are immersed in the innermost mystery of his Godhead and the drama of the salvation of our humanity" (CCC, n. 2801).  Because the Father is perfect and holy, Jesus wants us to let his image and likeness shine through our lives.
  • Walk in the presence of the Father, who IS in heaven and who IS close to us wherever we are. This is what it means to ask that his Kingdom come; this is why Jesus proclaimed that "The kingdom of God is at hand" (Mk 1:15). Heaven contains the earth as the soul contains the body.
  •  Will the Will of the Father, in matters great and small. Holiness looks like something--conforming my will the the Will of the Father.  And it looks like Someone--Jesus--who lived 30 years of ordinary life and 3 years of extraordinary ministry simply willing the Father's Will, moment-to-moment.
  • Eat and drink giving thanks to the Father (particularly at his eucharistic table)! To resist the myth of our own self-sufficiency and our own self-made-ness, perhaps there is no better place to start than looking at every drop and morsel we consume as signs of affection from the Father: "all good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights" (Jas 1:17).
  • Forgive with the prodigal and gratuitous love of the Father. We must redirect those who have hurt us, so that they stop their bad behavior and so that relationships might be restored.  But this requires that we remember how much we have already been forgiven: "Merciful and gracious is the LORD, slow to anger, abounding in kindness" (Ps 103:8).
  • Cast out temptations in the name of Jesus, the Father's beloved. The father of lies will not rest until he has drawn us from the embrace of our heavenly Father. Temptations are guaranteed until the end of time, but we resist their control when we name them and dismiss them by invoking Jesus' authoritative name and example, "Get away, Satan" (Mt 4:10).
  • Trust that it pleases the Father to deliver us from every evil: Even before Jesus put evil to death on the Cross, he invited his followers to walk as he walked, with utter assurance in this promise: "Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom" (Lk 12:32).

In sum, Jesus teaches us how to pray by inviting us into his own prayer, into his inner life. We simply need to live from this mystery "in a vital and personal relationship with the living and true God"; after all, as the Catechism succinctly notes, "This relationship is prayer" (CCC, n. 2558).