A disciple says to Jesus: “Teach us to pray”. I guess the disciples of Jesus, as good Jews, knew how to pray, and indeed prayed. So, we may wonder, what is it that this disciple wants to learn about praying? Well, no matter the number of years we have been praying we too, perhaps, there’s something we can learn about prayer. But what is it then?
Bible readings Genesis 18: 20–32 Psalm 138: 1–3, 6–8 Colossians 2: 12–14 Luc 11: 1–13
But is it true?
Jesus puts it simply: “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” Yet, many are the times, and situations, in our lives when we asked and got nothing, searched and didn’t find and knocked, and the door never opened for us. How do we reconcile, then, the affirmation of Jesus and our own experiences that show, sometimes, just the contrary?
In fact, there are persons who have abandoned their faith simply because when they called upon God in prayer, for rescue, during critical moments of their lives they felt not heard when they didn’t get what they wanted. So, they have gone “away” disappointed. Even those of us who may still be holding on, comes a time when we have doubts and questions about what happens to that prayer we have been addressing to God since long time. Such doubts and questions are good reasons for us to join the disciple in asking Jesus: “Teach us to pray”. But which prayer?
“Our Father…your kingdom come”
The prayer of Jesus is a prayer of a secure believer, confident in the father who cares. He’s not afraid to express how feels and what he wants, like in the case just before his passion: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Mt 26:39). We find this attitude in the “Our father…your kingdom come.” Where God reigns, his will takes first place. It’s not submission or resignation, but an act of trust; surrendering oneself to the one who loves us. This attitude of addressing God as Father, and allowing him to reign in my life, changes also my prayer. I pass from old to new way of praying.
How have I been praying? What has been inspiring my prayer? When I feel insecure or when I’m in need; it could be moments of fragile health, financial insecurity or when my relationship is threatened. In such cases, naturally, prayer becomes spelling out a list of things that God should do for me. For an insecure believer prayer becomes an SOS call. Such prayer is heard, so one thinks, only when the desired help comes by. But is it true that our prayer is heard only when we get what we ask for? “Teach us to pray” means opening oneself to another way of looking at prayer.
The prayer of Jesus is inspired not by needs or insecurity, it’s rooted in a filial relationship of a son with his caring father. We can add an image to it: a little child that throws itself in the arms of mum or dad, sure there’s someone who loves and cares. That’s the prayer that Jesus proposes, a prayer of trust, in the knowledge that God is our Father. Before him we can express our needs, all right; but not because we feel threatened but that we have a dad whose will is our wellbeing.
To move from the old, insecure way of praying, to the new and self-abandoning kind of prayer; we need to look at the way Jesus prays. And, then, we can join the disciple, saying: “teach us to pray”.
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