We have so much to pray for in our lives and in our troubled world.
As you do, I pray for many things during the course of any day. And often events cause me to pray for special intentions. For instance, this week in my prayer, I’ve been praying for one of our brother priests who died and for the family of one of our bishops, who lost a sister recently.
I’ve also been praying for our brothers and sisters in Ecuador and Japan, for all those killed and suffering from the earthquakes in those countries. I am praying for the refugees from Syria and Africa and for Christians facing persecution there and in other parts of the world.
In a special way this week, I’ve also been praying for the refugees and immigrants who are living in a kind “limbo” in our country. The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments this week about a government plan to help 4 million people who are living under the daily threat of deportation. I am praying every day for them and for our leaders to fix this broken immigration system.
St. Paul said we should pray without ceasing. And we can find ceaseless reasons to pray every day in the news media, in our own lives and in the lives of the people we love.
So it is good for us to continue reflecting on the lessons of the Our Father, which we began a couple weeks ago in this column.
In giving us the words of the Our Father, Jesus is not saying that we can only talk to God by reciting these words.
Rather he is telling us that our prayer should never be casual. Prayer is a grace and a gift — it is entering into a relationship with the living God. So we need to know “who” we are talking to and we need to be sure we are talking about important and necessary things.
That is what the Our Father teaches us — who God is, what he expects from us, how we should talk to him and what we should talk about.
When Jesus prayed, he turned his eyes to heaven, and he teaches us to do the same:
“Our Father who art in heaven.”
In the face of our Father we seek who we are meant to be. We are praying with Jesus to become like Jesus, because he alone is the one who shows us the Father’s face and our true face as children of God.
We notice two “movements” in the prayer that Jesus gives us.
First, he teaches us to lift our gaze to what is above, to adore and praise God — for his holy name, for his Kingdom, for his will. Second, Jesus teaches us to think about what we really need, to petition him — for bread, for forgiveness, for freedom from temptation and evil.
At the heart of his prayer are the words, “Thy will be done.”This is the key to the Our Father and the key to our lives. In our prayer, we are asking to know the mystery of God’s will and we are asking for the grace to unite our will with his.
Prayer is an act of freedom. As we know, we always have a choice when it comes to God. What God wills can be ignored or rejected. We see this every day in our own lives, in other people’s lives, in the injustices of our society.
This is why we pray. We pray to know God and to know his will for our lives. We pray for the grace and strength to “do” God’s will and the courage to shape the world according to his will.
Jesus teaches us to call on God where he “lives” — in heaven.
“Our Father who art in heaven” means we know we are addressing the Creator of the universe, the One who moves the stars and the planets in their orbits, the One who makes the heavens and the earth and who sustains all things.
We are not saying that God is remote or far off. St. Teresa of Avila said that “everywhere God is, there is heaven.” And God is everywhere in his creation, so we know that our Father in heaven is closer than the air we breathe.
We should pray with a kind of amazement and awe — because this God who created all things allows us to draw near to him and to call him “Father.”
With this prayer, Jesus teaches us to pray with the confidence of God’s children — knowing that we are loved by God and created for his purposes and in his image.
So this week let’s pray for one another and let’s try to say a prayer each day for someone in our lives or for some situation in the world. Let’s renew the habit of praying for others.
And let’s ask our Blessed Mother Mary to help us to pray with a new and deeper awareness that we are beloved sons and daughters of our Father in heaven.