The Perfect Prayer

Matthew 6: 7-15
Sir 48: 1-14 / Ps 97: 1-7

Your Father knows what you need, before you ask Him.
(Matthew 6:8)

Pray the ‘Our Father’ every day,
That all the world’s conflicts may cease;
As Jesus has shown us the way,
Let’s pray it constantly for peace.

Jesus instructed His disciples on praying: “When you pray, do not babble like the pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. This is how you are to pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.” (Matthew 6: 7-15)

Reflection

From the start, Jesus taught His disciples (and us) to address God as “Our Father” because He meant this prayer to be prayed universally (by all peoples), and as an intimate form of communication between a loving Father and all his children. If we cannot regard all the people in our life as a brother or a sister, then we cannot call God our Father.

Jesus presented God as a personal, loving Father, in contrast to the common perception of the Jews at that time, who viewed God as a distant authority figure, awesome and severe, who only communicated through their prophets. This was how the pagan religions worshipped their gods, to whom some of them even sacrificed their own kind to win favors or answers to their prayers. To the Jews at that time, this teaching of Jesus must have seemed too radical, or even bordering on blasphemy. But Jesus taught with such authority that His disciples followed His example, and the whole Christian world is the better for it. Thus, when we pray to God, we should feel His presence like a father near his child.

One might ask, why do we have to pray if, as Jesus said, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him”? For one thing, we must worship God as our King and Creator, thus we must show our total submission to Him, surrendering to all His mysterious plans. (“Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”) He is the Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power” (1 Tim. 6:15-16).

Standing or kneeling before such Majestic Power, how then can we allow our mind to wander, as we rattle off our memorized prayer before dozing off to sleep, or dashing off to work? It is with an attitude of deep reverence for His Holy Name that we should approach God in prayer. That is why Jesus taught us to say, “Hallowed be Thy Name” (or “May Your Name be holy forever”). In this respect we must place ourselves in His holy Presence.

In this prayer, Jesus also wants us to become holy by imitating His Father’s forgiving nature. God will forgive our sins if we forgive all who have wronged us, just as God will pour out His generosity to those who have a kind and generous heart.

Finally, Jesus taught us that we have to acknowledge God our Father as our Divine Provider, on Whom we depend for everything we need. In this way we are humbling ourselves, and putting our life totally under His care. For indeed our food and all our material needs come from Him; the forgiveness of our sins comes from Him (even our capacity to forgive others comes from Him); and our protection from the snares of the evil one comes from Him. If we can meditate on all of these lessons that Jesus has taught us while we are praying to the Father, then we have made it a perfect prayer.

Dear God, grant that we may honor Your Name in the words that we speak, and follow Your will in everything we set out to do, following the example of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has taught us the way to love and adore You as our Father. Amen.

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