Living a Life of Prayer

During the Sacred Triduum this year I followed our Lord by meditating on the ‘Our Father’ that He taught His disciples. For two millennia the Our Father has been the prayer par excellence which should be no surprise; after all, our Lord gave it to us and told us to use it:

‘Pray then like this: Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.[1]

It was important to Jesus that we learn this prayer and use it. Countless scholars have dissected it and wrote about how perfect it is. But as Jesus shows us during His passion it isn’t just words to recite to our Heavenly Father, but a life-plan on how to live.

His ultimate lesson to His disciples, and us, on how to pray was at the end of His earthly journey. He witnessed the importance of His prayer to those with Him, against Him, and of course all His followers down to us and on. Our Lord’s Passion is His living example of the Our Father.

Our Father, Who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy Name.
Jesus talks to His Father. His dialog at the Garden of Gethsemane during his agony: And he said, “Abba, Father…”[2]. His dialog with His Father on the Cross, in front of his executioners and onlookers: ‘And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “E’lo-i, E’lo-i, la’ma sabach-tha’ni?” which means, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”’[3] He shows the importance of continual dialog with the Father. It is important in our life as it roots us in the solid gift of Love and strengthens us for whatever comes our way.

Thy Kingdom come. Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.
Jesus accepts the will of His Father, and in doing so the Father’s Kingdom comes to earth. At the Garden of Gethsemane, when He wishes events would be other than they are, but He says to His Father: ‘…Father, all things are possible to thee; remove this cup from me; yet not what I will, but what thou wilt.”’[4]

When, at last He completed His Father’s plan, from the Cross: ‘Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.’[5] As with our Lord, so with us; our fullness as a human will be realized in heaven. As we journey on this earth we both try to grow to that fullness as well as bring a glimpse of the heavenly here. The only way for us to do this is to submit to the will of He who knows all.

Give us this day our daily bread.
On Holy Thursday our Lord gives us our daily bread as He institutes the Eucharist and those who will give it to the flock, the priesthood: ‘And as they were eating, he took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.’[6]

The Lord offers us His body to the work of bringing us to the kingdom and a little of the kingdom to earth. This communion brings us closest to Christ, and Christ, in turn nourishes us, strengthens us. He said as much: ‘He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.[7]

And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Hung on the cross the Lord turns His mercy towards His killers: ‘And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”’[8]  Then Christ, nailed to the Cross, forgives the good thief who asks for forgiveness: ‘And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”’[9]

Later, after His resurrection, on the shore of Sea of Tiberias Jesus forgives Peter’s denials: ‘When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”’[10]

True love requires us to love all, not just those who are friends and especially those who mean us evil. Communion with Christ should remove any distinction between people when it comes to our witness of love.

And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.
His resurrection, the assurance that God will not leave us alone; that God will never leave us to our own devices or the designs of the prince of earth. We see Christ, again on the shores of the Sea of Tiberias tell his apostles ‘”Follow me.”[11]

Brothers and sisters, this living lesson by our Lord on the power of prayer gives us the strength to persevere in our own prayer life. It is never too late to start and always timely to correct. Let’s use the Our Father as a model of how to move from vocal prayer to mental prayer to action prayer.
[1] Mt 6:9-13
[2] Mk 14:36
[3] Mk 15:34
[4] Mk 14:36
[5] Lk 23:46
[6] Mk 14:22-24
[7] Jn 6:56
[8] Lk 23:34
[9] Lk 23:43
[10] Jn 21:15-17
[11] Jn 21-19