The Lord’s Prayer

Today’s Gospel introduces us to the Lord’s prayer (if we’ve been living in a cave or on another planet.)  Jesus tells His disciples not to “babble” when they pray.  Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.  This is how you pray”

‘Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,
thy Kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.’

Since this prayer was given to us by the Lord, we call it “The Lord’s Prayer” or we may call it the “Our Father).  Whatever we call it it’s truly a universal prayer, a catholic prayer.  (catholic with a small “c” means universal.)

It’s often considered a Catholic prayer (capital c) because Catholics are known to memorize certain prayers and trot them out when the occasion calls for them.  More about that in a minute.

If you’ve ever attended a “mixed marriage” between a Catholic and a Protestant you’ve surely noticed that the bride’s family and friends are on one side and the groom’s are on the other.  Of course, if you ever find yourself in such a predicament the first thing to remember is NEVER MAKE EYE CONTACT with anyone on the other side.  But soon you may notice that we’re not all that different.  In fact, at some point in the proceedings both sides will begin saying, “Our Father who art in heaven.”  Wow!  We say that prayer too.

The trouble comes when everyone says “but deliver us from evil” and you say “amen” and start to sit down,.  But before your bottom hits the pew you go “Wait a minute!  They’re not stopping!”

So you jump back up and wait for them to finish.  The conclusion is known as a “Doxology” and is not part of the original prayer.  In fact, in the Catholic liturgy, at the conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer, the priest gives an extended Doxology which concludes with the words (accompanied by the faithful in the pews) “for the kingdom and the power and the glory are yours, now and forever.”

But, that’s not what’s important.  What is important is that all Christians pray the same essential prayer, as Jesus taught us.  The Holy Father says the Lord’s Prayer.  Kings and presidents say the Lord’s Prayer.  Ordinary people say the Lord’s Prayer.  And even down-and-out drunks hold hands and recite it at the end of every Alcoholics Annonymous meeting.  It is indeed universal.

Now, about those memorized prayers, like the Lord’s Prayer, the Hail Mary, the meal prayer, the bedtime prayer and others.  Catholics are often criticized for our dependence on these “canned” prayers.  Now, there’s not a thing wrong with good extemporaneous prayer.  I know people who can make a meal prayer last fifteen minutes.  But Jesus just told us not to babble.  God knows what we want.  “Bless us O Lord and these gifts which we are about to receive from thy bounty, through Christ our Lord” pretty much covers it.

Here’s the thing.  We begin to memorize all these prayers as small children (at least those of you who are cradle Catholics).  They become part of us.  They’re so ingrained in our subconscious that we’re praying them even when we’re not aware of it.  We become the prayer.

When I was in hospital ministry, it wasn’t unusual to have a Catholic patient, near death, maybe even comatose who would move his or her lips when I prayed the Our Father.  Sometimes they would even try to make the sign of the cross.  Their parents had no idea when they taught them those prayers eighty years ago that those prayers would carry them into the next life.  This is pretty strong stuff.  So never be embarrassed by all those prayers you learned as a child.  Someday they will come in handy.

Advertisements