I read a beautiful piece in the current issue of America magazine by David Berry, titled The Quest Space: Between the Lines of the Our Father. He talks about a retreat he was giving in Korea during which it seemed that people were having difficulty moving out of an intellectual frame of mind and into a space of deeper feelings and reflections.
To address that, he suggested to his retreatants that they try a new way of praying a prayer they had all recited thousands and thousands of times, the Our Father. I’ve talked in a prior post about St. Teresa of Avila’s commentary on the Our Father and her suggestion that her sisters pray the prayer slowly and reflectively, something I have found very helpful. Here is Berry’s description of the instructions he gave his retreatants.
I invited them to put themselves into a prayerful state and, when someone felt ready, to say slowly the first line of the Our Father in Korean. I suggested they listen to the phrase and rest in contemplation. Why would Christ ask us to say those words? After a few moments when another person felt moved to speak they should slowly say the next line of the prayer. Again we would remain silent for three breaths and continue the phrase.
Speaking about the retreatants experience of the prayer, Berry notes that the pauses were longer than he expected and the phrases of the prayer were spoken in earnest and with focused attention. He also noted that he has since then prayed the Our Father many times in that fashion, with silent pauses between the lines and that he is “still somewhat startled by what sometimes happens during one heartfelt Our Father.”
Many of us recite the Our Father on a daily basis. But how often to we pray it as Berry suggests? The pauses in between the lines do more than let us reflect. They give God a chance to to communicate with us.
If you haven’t prayed the prayer like this before, try it. Like Berry, you may be startled by what happens.