November 19, 2006

The Lord's Prayer

We say The Lord's Prayer (Our Father) each week at Mass; many say it more often as a daily prayer, as part of the rosary, or whenever we feel a need to call out to God. As Christ's response to the disciples' request to teach them to pray, it is not only an effective prayer but a framework for prayer.

According to Matthew, Jesus advised the disciples that they should "...not heap up empty phrases" and think that "they will be heard for their many words." Prayer does not need to be complex or grandiose. Sincerity and faith are far more important and more impressive to God (and seem to be in much shorter supply).

There are parts to the framework Christ suggested to His disciples:
  • Praising God
  • Asking for what we need or want
  • Asking for forgiveness & grace
The first of the Commandments is to love and worship the one God with all of your heart. Just as anything should begin, our prayer should begin with praise to the God that created and sustains us; there is a reason that is the first commandment.

God is not just a creator, however; He is a father. (As unfortunately some can attest, there is a difference between creating a life and fathering one.) As His children, we can bring our needs to God and trust in His loving kindness to give us what we need. A good father, however, does not blindly give everything his children ask for; God is a good father, of course, and gives - or doesn't give - with wisdom. Saying we are children of God is not simply a beautiful metaphor; it is a truth. We are children and often cannot see the wisdom with which God chooses for us; it is our place as children, then, to trust our Father and put our needs in His hands.

Finally, this prayer framework ends with acknowledging our weaknesses and asking God for forgiveness. As any good parent would, God willingly gives His forgiveness but also expects us to try to improve. The prayer that Christ suggests, then, does not simply ask for forgiveness but ask for help in avoiding sin in the future.

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