In today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches us how to pray. We can follow the exact words, as we do in the Lord’s Prayer, or we can follow the general structure. One thing to note is the context Jesus gives. We should not use idle words or heap empty phrases. Prayer is the time to get real with God. This is because God knows us more than we know ourselves. We are not fooling God by faking it or giving outward signs of piety. The Father knows what we need before we ask Him. This is sometimes confusing. People may ask why we need to petition God if He is omniscient. If God knows we are going to ask for something, and He wants to give us that thing, then why go through the frivolous exercise? This line of thinking misses the point. Prayer is good for us. God wills us to pray to Him, to ask Him for things, because prayer changes us. Prayer draws us closer. Prayer puts us in a place of worship. Prayer shapes us. Prayer helps perfect us and conform us to Christ. Prayer is not always petitioning God, either. We have prayers of thanksgiving and praise, as well as meditative and contemplative prayers.
When we pray the Lord’s Prayer or its pattern, we first recognize God for who He is. We then conform ourselves to His will. We ask only that our needs be met for this day, and that we are forgiven for any debts or trespasses against God. We then offer our own forgiveness to others as God has forgiven us. These are very powerful passages. The whole idea of forgiveness and its act is hard to comprehend. To forgive the debts of our sin, to cancel them and remove them from us is beyond our understanding. Nonetheless, God does this through Christ. Our response to this move of grace in our lives must be to act likewise toward others. To withhold forgiveness is to eschew grace. We are not letting God’s love flow through us. We are trying to bottle it up and hoard it. The spiritual life in Christ is allowing the divine love to operate within us such that it redounds to the benefit of others. Just like we read yesterday in the passages about the sheep and goats (Matthew 25:31-46), what we do toward others is deeply reflective of our own spiritual state. The more we try to hoard the love of God, the more impoverished of it we become.
The Lord’s prayer finishes with a request for God to help us avoid temptation and for Him to deliver us from evil. May we receive God’s grace sufficient each day to turn away from sin and temptation to transgress.