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THE BEST OF ALL PRAYERS

Father Francis's picture
Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time

Lk. 11:1-13

Jesus gave us the model of all prayer when He taught us the Our Father. “Do you and I pray correctly?” When we pray to whom do we address our prayers? Is it always to Jesus? Jesus would be the first one to say, “I want you to direct your prayers not to Me, but to My heavenly Father. When I taught My Apostles to pray I did not teach them to say, ‘Dear Jesus’, but ‘Our Father’”. Jesus wants us to address our prayers to the Father and in His name. Did He not say, “You can ask the Father anything in My name and He will grant it to you”? Where does the Holy Spirit fit in? He is the one who motivates us. So to sum up how to pray correctly we should pray to the Father, through His Son and by the power of the Holy Spirit. In this way our prayers are Trinity centred and not just Christo-centric.

In this prayer Jesus teaches us to get our priorities correct. First we must be concerned with God our Father, honouring His name, willing His Kingdom to come and doing His will. Only then should we be concerned with our needs; our daily bread, forgiveness of our sins and strength in the face of temptation and deliverance from Satan.

How often when we pray we are only concerned about our own needs and forget to honour God. For example, when I awake on the day of a serious operation, my first thought and prayer would be, “Lord, I’m scared. Keep me calm. May the surgeon do a good job”. That prayer is all about me. Surely if I really loved God and understood just who He is and how much He cares for and loves me, I would first love and adore Him and only then would I think about my needs. Jesus in teaching us the ‘Our Father’ wants us to give the first 50% of our prayers to His Father and then 50% to our own needs.

In fact you could say that this is how we do behave. Just supposing I was talking to a group of people who could not see the door behind them and the Queen was to enter. I’d be surprised and stop speaking. My audience could see the surprise on my face and gradually turn their heads to see what made me stop speaking and what I was looking at. They too would surprised. I’d say, “Yes, it’s her Majesty the Queen. I know it is her because she has her corgis with her.” From that moment I would cease to exist. My audience would forget I was talking to them and all their attention would be on her Majesty and quite rightly so, because of whom she is.

This is what Jesus is trying to tell us. “If only you realise with whom you come into contact when you pray, namely God, your loving Father, then you are not going to be concerned about your own needs, but first give praise, honour and love to Him. Only when you have done this, will you think about your own world.

It is only when God is given His proper place that all other things fit into their proper places. Prayer must never be our attempt to bend the will of God to our desires. It must always be our attempt to submit our wills to the will of God.

The very first word ’Our’ in the Our Father teaches us that this prayer is a social prayer. Nowhere in the Our Father will you find the words, I, me, my, mine, but we, us, our. God is not any person’s exclusive possession. He belongs to everyone.

By calling God ‘Father’ we are proclaiming that we are all His children no matter what race, colour or creed we belong.

The very word that Jesus used for ‘Father’ must have come as a tremendous shock to the ears of His Apostles. The word Jesus used for ‘Father’ was ‘Abba’, which to their ears was equivalent to ‘Daddy’. By this Jesus is indicating they we are to be as ease with our heavenly Father as a little child is with his Daddy.

There is a story told of a Roman Emperor who after a conquest was making a triumphal entry into Rome. The tall legionaries lined the streets to keep the cheering crowds in their places. The empress, holding her son in her lap, sat on a special platform to watch the procession. Suddenly the little boy jumped from her lap, burrowed through the crowd, ducked under the legs of one of the legionaries and ran towards his father’s chariot. The legionary stooped down and swung him in his arms. He said, “You can’t do that boy. Don’t you know who is in that chariot? He’s the Emperor”. The little lad smiled at him and said, “He may be your Emperor, but he’s my Daddy”. That is exactly the way in which a Christian should feel towards God. He may be God, but Jesus has told us that He is our Father.

In our prayers we must use the word ‘Father’ with reverence, adoration and wonder. There was one saint who could never say the prayer the ‘Our Father’ right through. He started, ‘Our Father’ and was lost in ecstasy. If only we could love our Father in heaven like that.

When I wake up every morning the first two words I love to say is “Our Father” with the thought, “I place my whole day in Your hands.” If God our Father can’t look after me, no one can.

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