Prayer is extremely important in one’s life as it is through prayer that one comes in direct contact with God the Father and discovers that God is really present in his life. Although today many say that they have no time to prayer, in reality these people are saying that they do not find the time to pray.
Jesus Christ, who although was the person closest to God, still found prayer essential in His life. Christ says that ‘… my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name’ and ‘… No one comes to the Father except through me’. This is what man has to pray. On 30th November 2011, Pope Benedict XVI stated in his General Audience that ‘Jesus is the Master for our prayer; indeed He is the fraternal and active support each and every time we turn to the Father.’ Prayer is fully revealed and realised in Jesus.
Man can never discover God’s will. This can be seen clearly in St Paul’s Letter to the Philippians 1: 9-11 when he states that ‘…and this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.’
When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, He recited the Lord’s Prayer. This prayer taught them how to honour God, seek His perfect Will, to petition for their needs, expect His giving and offer themselves in service.
The Lord’s Prayer is regarded by the Church as being the perfect prayer. Tertullian said that this short but meaningful prayer is the summary of the whole Gospel. This prayer, as found in Matthew 6: 9-13, is divided into three parts. It begins with an invocation, followed by three petitions with regard to God and closes with three petitions concerning the people of God.
The four characteristics attributed to the prayer made by Jesus Christ and that have to be the basis of all Christian prayer are all found in the Lord’s Prayer: His prayer is addressed to the Father, it happens in His condition as Son, it happens in the Spirit and shows that He is Head of the Body, i.e. the Church.
Jesus starts this prayer by praising His Father who is in heaven – ‘Our Father who art in heaven’. This is the filial characteristic of the prayer of Jesus – the relationship between Father and Son. Here Jesus speaks in the plural, showing us that God is His Father as well as Our Father – the Father of all mankind. God has chosen us to be His adopted children through Jesus Christ. Here we Christians have a lesson of faith – we contemplate on who and what God is in one’s life – Our Father, as well as establishing a strong connection to the Creator. Jesus is the first-born among many brothers – the head of the body (the Church) – one of the four characteristics. As Andrew Murray says we have ‘…the wonderful revelation the Son came to make of His Father as our Father too.’
The three petitions are found in the following ‘hallowed be Thy name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done on earth as it is in heaven’. Jesus shows great respect to His Father by first acknowledging Him and then petitioning for us – Thy name … Thy will be done ….. . We Christians are already living in an eschatological era. By intervening salvifically, God reveals Himself as Holy in His Son Jesus, and has given us his Holy Spirit. Thus, in adhering to God and awaiting to see Him in all His glory and power, the Christian seeks to reveal God as Holy, to sanctify Him by observing His Laws and thus rendering Him glory.
Jesus petitions with His Father for the coming of the Kingdom, a key theme of His preaching and teaching. In Jesus’ thinking, the Kingdom of God is both future and imminent, present yet mysteriously hidden in His very own person and activity. Christians, through His Son Jesus Christ, ask God the Father to fulfil His plan of salvation which will come at the end of time.
The second part of the Lord’s Prayer opens with one of the three petitions by Jesus Christ concerning man’s everyday life. ‘Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us ….’ The three petitions are for the bread of life, the remission of sins and the preservation from temptation and the liberation from evil. Here prayer is seen as the cry of a beloved child to a Father with a father’s heart who is ready to pour out all that He has to give.
Through His prayer, Jesus shows his Sonship and the Father’s paternity. In the Lord’s Prayer we can see Jesus’ relationship with the Father and the confidence He has in God’s perfect provision and plan. It is this relationship that brought salvation to man. Although the Holy Spirit is not mentioned by name in this Prayer, it is present. It is the love that goes between the Father and the Son.
We are all children of God and thus God understands all our prayers. No prayer prayed in Jesus’ name, no request made in Jesus’ names and no praise rendered in Jesus’ name, is lost. It is all heard by God. We only have to have enough confidence to believe that God the Father will answer it. A famous song called I’ll walk with God states ‘I’ll walk with God, I’ll take His hand; I’ll talk with God, He’ll understand; I’ll pray to Him … And He’ll hear the words that I say …’. This shows clearly the strong Father-son/daughter relationship – a father holds his son/daughter’s hand and listens attentively to his son/daughter whenever he/she needs something.
It is through our spiritual growth that we get to know and understand this great loving relationship between God the Father and Man. The more we mature and grow in our spiritual life, the more we come to understand this Father-Son relationship. ‘The knowledge of God’s Father-love is the first and simplest, but also the last and highest lesson in the school of prayer’ – the aspect of God’s Fatherly-love is easy to understand but it is completely understood and fulfilled through our dynamic growth in His love.
MURRAY Andrew, With Christ in the School of Prayer (2001) (on-line) : http://www.ccel.org/ccel/murray/prayer.html [25 November 2011]
All about Jesus Christ. Jesus Praying – Connecting (on-line) : http://www.allaboutjesuschrist.org/common/printable-jesus-praying.htm [5 December 2011]
ADINOLFI Marco, The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6: 9-13) in The Convent of Pater Noster (on-line) : http://www.christusrex.org/www1/pater/excursus.html [5 Decembr 2011]
BENEDICT XIV, Pope, On the Prayer of Jesus (30 November 2011) (on-line) : http://www.zenit.org/article-33925?l=english [5 December 2011]