Matthew 6:7-15, Tuesday of the 1st Week of Lent
Our Father. You are our Father, and we are Your children, and thus, we are brothers and sisters. Amid our many differences – in race and religion, in gender, in status in society, in everything that divides us – we are actually one, children of one Father, You. Hence our hearts and minds are bound. We cry with all the victims of the war in Ukraine and other places in the world. We suffer with those who are suffering, especially in this pandemic.
You, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Though You are in heaven, hallowed and holy, You are also here on earth with us, establishing Your kingdom in both realms, heaven and earth. You are out there in heaven, our final destination, and also You are here on earth, in our everyday grind, our everyday realities. You are thus never far, you are ever near, intimate to us.
Yes, every day, every moment, as You give us today our daily bread, our daily needs, for our daily lives. You provide, as a Father does, for everything – food, shelter, family, friendships, everything we need to survive, to thrive, to live to the full this life You give us, including the leaders we need who will lead us to You, our Father, leaders and shepherds after Your own heart, like the leaders we will support in the coming elections.
And You forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Because such is our daily life – we stumble along the way, and we need You, Father, to bring us back on track, which is back to You, be reconciled with You, just as we reconcile with those who sin against us, and withthose we offend as well. You teach us to forgive, just as you forgive us over and over again, you ask us to forgive others as well, and to ask forgiveness too, over and over again.
As we beg that You lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil – our natural tendencies, our many distractions, our compulsions and addictions, our favorite sins, our stubbornness and forgetfulness, our moving around in circles, our constant chasing of our shadows, our many inclinations to move away from you – hence we beg that you lessen these, to stop these, to remove these if possible, and keep us by your side, freed and spared from evil, protected and safe. Amen.
Such is how the Our Father teaches how to pray, as Jesus Himself said. It is how a prayer should be. First, it is personal and intimate, as we address God as You, our Father. Second, it acknowledges who God is, Father, all powerful as King of heaven and earth, but also, all gentle and compassionate to us. Third, it acknowledges who we are – our need to survive, and thus our need for God’s providence; sinful, and thus needy of God’s forgiveness; tempted and vulnerable, and thus dependent on God’s deliverance and protection from evil. It keeps us humble, acknowledging God as God, and us, as no God, but God’s creation, yet loved above all else.
The Our Father is about God’s power and gentleness amid our need and dependence. Prayer is about this dialogue of a powerful and gentle God, and me, a needy and dependent person. Prayer is also never just individual, but collective, done in community, as brothers and sisters bound by One Father, Our Father, and not My Father alone.
And thus, we never tire of praying the Our Father. As we grow through life, as we deepen spiritually, and believe more and more that God knows whatever we need in prayer, as Jesus Himself insists, as we trust that God knows what is best for us, the best solutions to our problems, the most perfect timing for everything, the grace and blessing we do not ask for, but surprisingly receive, as we believe in all these more and more in our lives – the more we accept and see that prayer is less talk and more silence, less words and more trust, less fear and more confidence, more quiet, obedient surrender to His will in our lives.
And praying the Our Father, contemplatively and lovingly, is enough. More than enough. Amen.