(Photo illustration by Phil Younk)
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Based on the Gospel of Luke 11:1-13
Having followed Jesus for some time now, the disciples noticed Jesus prayed often and for long periods of time. St. Luke’s Gospel, known as a Gospel of prayer, gives us examples such as: “Great crowds assembled to listen to him and to be cured of their ailments, but he would withdraw to deserted places to pray” (Lk 5:15-16) and Jesus would rise early to pray or went to the mountain and “spent the night in prayer to God” (Lk 6:12). The disciples were so touched by how Jesus prayed that in this Sunday’s Gospel one of the disciples says, “Lord, teach us to pray.”
Jesus teaches them the Lord’s Prayer, the “Our Father”: to know God as their loving, protective Father; to praise him; to ask for the peace and justice of his kingdom now on earth; to receive from him their daily needs; to ask for the forgiveness of their sins and for the grace to forgive others; and to ask for the faith and strength to keep from giving in to temptation. Jesus also told them to continually pray with trust and confidence because their Father in heaven understands all their needs and wants them to have all that is good.
Prayer brings us closer to God. That’s why Jesus often took time out to pray and to be with his “Father.” On Calvary as Jesus hung on the cross, he cried out, “Abba!” Translated from Aramaic to English, Abba means “Father” or “Daddy.” At that very painful time, it was as if Jesus cried out, “Father, help me!”
Jesus teaches us that God the Father is someone we can always turn to in good times, bad times, or the in-between times. In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus says, “And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” God hears every one of our prayers. He always answers our prayers, but sometimes he has different things in mind than what we ask for. Whatever the answer, we know we can always count on God’s fatherly love and constant concern for us and his desire to respond to our every need.
The late Pope John Paul II, in his apostolic letter, “Novo Millennio Ineunte,” said, “We have to learn to pray, as it were learning this art ever anew from the lips of the Divine Master himself, like the first disciples: ‘Lord, teach us to pray!’ (Lk 11:1). Prayer develops that conversation with Christ which makes us his intimate friends: ‘Abide in me and I in you’ (John 15:4). This reciprocity is the very substance and soul of the Christian life….”
Check out the Catechism of the Catholic Church 2759-2865 on the deep meaning of the Our Father and 2734-2745 on trust and persistence in prayer.
“Lord, teach us to pray.”