Saturday, September 15, 2018

Jesus was praying in a certain place, and after He had finished, one of His disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John the Baptizer taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.  And do not bring us to the time of trial.” – Luke 11:1-4

Christ praying 2Christ’s disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray.  And I find that somewhat perplexing for these disciples were Jewish, born and schooled, people who attended the teaching in the synagogue, and now were students in this traveling rabbinical school.  So I think that they asked not so much how to pray but rather how to pray in Christ’s manner.  The disciples refer to the manner of prayer taught by John the Baptizer, a manner of prayer probably lost in the sands of Time.

So when Christ offers an example of His manner prayer we find His manner remarkably brief with an efficient and effective economy words but still words carefully selected. [I have been in many a prayer group and listened to many a pastoral prayer and this brief economy of words is a lesson seldom followed.]

Christ’s manner of prayer is remarkably straightforward without need for flourishes.  Even His opening words of praise to the Lord is but a direct address without feeling the need to overload it with wave after wave of praise words.  “Our Father, who abides in heaven, holy is Your Name.”  I have been immersed in praise services where instead of authentic praise people flooded the heavens with flattery.  Christ felt no need to flatter or appease the Father … but rather simply to recognize the holiness of the Lord.

Christ’s manner of prayer is a blending of needs confessed and promises affirmed.  It is a simple recognition of our essential human needs.  We are in need of Providence and we are in need of Mercy.  And in this recognition of need we also entrust our needs into the compassionate care of God.  But the list of needs is short.  Bread in order to live another day; mercy in order to begin each day anew.  No, “Santa Claus” of wants and desires, contrary to the manner of prayer I find in conveyors and practitioners of the “prosperity gospel”; no reminders to God to do what we ought to know God is already doing; no, forcing God’s hand or seducing a change in God’s will.  No, simply for the needs of the day and a new beginning.

Christ’s manner of prayer is an examination of self and the coming to grip with our weaknesses, especially what comes to light in times of testing one’s character.  It is a time to forgive and be forgiven, this quality of prayer life that Christ teaches.  It is a surprisingly intimate conversation with the Father, no airs, no pretenses, no hysterics, no need to impress those who overhear.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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