The Most Perfect Christian Prayer


Thursday of the 11th Week in Ordinary Time

Sirach 48: 1-14; Matthew 6: 7-15

Dc. Larry Brockman

The “Our Father” – the core message of today’s Gospel.  It is God made man’s instruction to us on how we should pray.  If any of you have a copy of the New Catechism of the Catholic Church, there’s a wonderful section that summarizes the depth and richness of this simple prayer.  The catechism quotes the great Doctor of the Church,  St. Thomas Aquinas, for example, who says “The Our Father is the most perfect of Christian Prayers, because it not only instructs us on how we should make our petitions to God, but it also tells us what the right order, the right sequence, of our prayer should be”.  How awesome is that!  

When you heard the “Our Father” proclaimed this morning when the Gospel was read, did you think to yourself- “Oh yes, I know that prayer”; or did you think of it as something as profound as St. Thomas Aquinas described?  Indeed, once and a while, we need to step back from the familiar things of our Faith and contemplate them with some intensity.  The “Our Father” is one of those things.   

First, the “Our Father” is very short, direct, and comprehensive, not at all like the babbling of the pagans.  Second, it refers to “Our” Father, not “My” Father; and so, as we are being told how to pray, the emphasis is on the community, not on us as individual prayers.  Third, the sequence has our relationship with God in the proper order:  First, an offering of praise to God; then an emphasis on the divine will over our will; only then do we ask for what we really need- starting with sustenance and ending with forgiveness for our sins.  These are the two things Jesus says we need the most.  Notice that in the last paragraph of today’s Gospel, which is not part of the prayer itself, Jesus repeats and emphasizes our need to forgive  In order to merit God’s forgiveness.  And lastly, the prayer ends as we ask for avoidance of temptation.   

The “Our Father” can become a mechanical prayer, one that is recited from rote memory, and not a prayer of the heart.  But, when we understand it as a guide, a formula that gets to the heart of a proper relationship with God, then, it is anything but a rote prayer.  It is the most perfect Christian Prayer. 

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