In this passage one of Jesus’ disciples asks him how to pray? Jesus answers the request with the “Our Father.” In the early community of the Church only the Baptized were allowed to say this prayer. In fact, the Didache tells us that in the early Church this prayer was recited three times a day standing up.
The Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke have this prayer in their narratives. In Matthew there are seven petitions. In Luke there are four petitions. Matthew’s version was recited in a liturgical setting. Luke’s version was recited in a Baptismal setting. Matthew addresses God as “Heavenly Father.” Luke addresses God as “Father” Abba. Both versions demonstrate for us the personal relationship Matthew and Luke have with “the Father.”
Both versions are models for Christian prayer. The first thing they teach us is that we, too, need to have a personal relationship with God. We acknowledge that what is most important is that God’s concerns must always be placed first. The second thing we do is place our petition out there for God to see. At the same time, we make our petitions before God and to the extent that they enter into God’s plan we ask for them to be answered for us.
In a way this prayer tells us we are to place God’s wishes first. We present our needs as long as they enter into God’s purposes. In our prayer it is not our purpose for the mind of God to be changed. It is important that we persist in our prayers so that we can discern the will of God.
Prayer in the Christian tradition is not necessarily a mystical experience. It is working with God for the salvation of others. The power of Christian prayer is based on the reality that our God is our Father. God loves is and listens to our prayers. We pray because we trust in God’s hearing our prayers and God’s answering them. Because we pray we are people of hope. We have hope and believe in the future because God cares for us.
Fr. Ken O’Malley, C.P., is a member of the Passionist Community at Sacred Heart Monastery in Louisville, Kentucky.