Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Teach Us to Pray

Teach Us to Pray

October 10, 2012
Wednesday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time

By Colleen O'Sullivan

Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John 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 in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test.”  (Luke 11:1-4)


"For prayer is nothing else than being on terms of friendship with God." (Saint Teresa of Avila)


A couple of months ago, while visiting friends in Arizona, I had the opportunity to see the Grand Canyon for the first time.  I went with a picture in my head of what we would see, but the real thing far eclipsed my tiny vision.  From the vantage point of just one overlook, I was totally overwhelmed and awestruck by the grandeur and sweep of God’s handiwork.  I have no idea how far I could see, but I learned that the Canyon stretches 277 miles in length and is 10 miles wide.  Utterly amazing!  As I stood there, looking first in one direction and then the other, I felt like the tiniest speck in the grand scheme of God’s creation. 

So how is it that the God who made the sun, the moon and the stars, the God who carved out the Grand Canyon, the God who created everything from nothing then turns around and invites you and me, so small given the scope of God’s creation, to have an intimate relationship with him?  To me, it can only speak of God’s great love for us.  In today’s Gospel reading, when the disciples ask Jesus to teach them how to pray, the first thing he says is:  “When you pray, say: Father.”  Our God, who is totally other and utterly transcendent, invites us to call him Abba or Daddy or Father.

Prayer, as Jesus lays it out, is about relationship.  God is our Abba and we are his beloved children.  Prayer never changes God, but, if we make time for it, prayer can transform us and our relationship with the One we call holy.  As Jesus continues to speak to the disciples in this passage from Luke’s Gospel, we realize that if we are all God’s sons and daughters, then we are also all one another's brothers and sisters.  Prayer is about our relationships with all God’s family as well. 

When we pray for what we need for the day, and see that God has given us far more than what it takes to sustain us, then perhaps our prayer will lead us to share what we have with others.  When we ask our Father to forgive our sins and say, “You know, Abba, just like we forgive those who owe us respect, money or an apology,” perhaps we will be moved to truly be more forgiving toward those who have wronged us.  When we ask our Father to keep us safe from evil and testing, perhaps we will be led to examine ourselves to see if we are ever a source of evil and trial to others.


Any one of us could, I’m sure, recite the words to the Our Father in our sleep.  But, if prayer is about being in relationship, it has to be more than rote recitation.  Our hearts have to be in it.  We have to listen as well as speak.   When you have time today, take one line from this prayer and make it your own.  Put it into your own words, based on your life experiences, and offer it to your Abba. 

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