In today’s Gospel from Matthew, Jesus gives his disciples a lesson in prayer. After telling them not to “babble like the pagans,” he teaches them the prayer we refer to as The Lord’s Prayer.
Every time we go to Mass, and, for many of us, at other times a well, we recite this prayer that Jesus taught us. It is a prayer we could spend a lifetime meditating on. Teresa of Avila used to tell her sisters they should recite it prayerfully every day, meditating on each line of the prayer.
Consider just the opening two lines of that prayer: “Our Father”
When we say those words – Our Father – we are acknowledging a particular relationship not only with God but with each other. Yes, Jesus taught us that God is Father, and for many of us that is a powerful image – the image of God as Father. And I think we tend to focus on that part of the first line of the prayer, on what it says about our relationship with God.
But we don’t say simply Father, or Dear Father, or My Father. Jesus taught us to pray, “Our Father.” And by those words we acknowledge not only a filial relationship with God, but a relationship with each other. We acknowledge that we are brother and sister. We acknowledge that we stand as part of a family with each other – as part of a loving and united community with God.
I was so powerfully struck by this reality one morning when I was ending a prayer period with this prayer that I couldn’t even get past the first line. I stopped dead in my tracks with the enormity of what I was praying.
Imagine a world in which we all took the opening phrase of the Lord’s Prayer seriously!