The Model Of All Prayer
Thursday of Week 11 in Ordinary Time - Cycle I
2 Cor. 11:1-11 & Mt. 6: 7-15
Paul considers the church at Corinth to be a chaste virgin espoused to Christ yet in danger of being seduced by a false gospel. He also defends himself against the charge of being a financial burden to the Corinthians.
We are given the Our Father in today's Gospel reading, but it is a prayer that can become so familiar to us that there is a danger we fail to meditate on its riches.
The early Christian writer Tertullian called it “the summary of the whole gospel” and Saint Thomas Aquinas “the most perfect of prayers”.
The preamble from Jesus warning against heaping up ‘empty phrases’ should remind us that God wants genuine prayer offered in sincerity, not prayers said to impress other people, and our prayer should be brief because God already knows what we need.
It was the custom of every rabbi to teach his disciples how to pray. John the Baptist had done this and now Jesus is doing it. He said they were to address their prayers to the Father. The word that Jesus used was ‘Abba’ which must have come as a tremendous shock to His hearers. For this word to their ears was equivalent to ‘Daddy’ yet these men, who had such a respect for God that in prayer they sometimes would not even use the name of God, were now being told to address Him as ‘Daddy’. Jesus wanted to teach them that just as a small child can be on familiar terms with his earthly father, this is how they must be with their Heavenly Father. But they were never to forget that He was a special Father because he was in Heaven.
Then Jesus gave them and us six petitions. Three are concerned about the Father and three about our concerns. Here is Jesus teaching us to get our priorities correct. So often when we pray we are concerned first about our needs, and we may remember to include God sometimes. 'No' says Jesus, 'it is only when you get your priorities correct that everything else fits into place'.
The Our Father is such a rich prayer. When I examine the second half I am convinced that only Jesus could have given us this prayer. Have you ever considered how beautifully He has put it together? When we think of bread, we think of God the Father Who provides for us. When we think of forgiveness of sin, we think of Jesus Who died to save us from our sins. When we think of help in time of temptation we think of the Holy Spirit Who is always there to help us.
Again when we think of bread for today we think of the present. When we think of forgiveness we think of the past. When we think of deliverance from temptation we think of the future. Jesus has taught us to bring the whole of time – past, present and future - before the whole of the throne of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Only Jesus could teach us such a beautiful and comprehensive prayer!
Lord Jesus, the ‘Our Father’ is without doubt the best of all prayers, and we thank You for teaching it to us. May we model all our prayers on this one.