Thank God it’s Tuesday!
Last week the parish was involved in six ecumenical services, two for Ash Wednesday and four for the World Day of Prayer. It is a moving experience to pray together remembering that the heart of our faith, relationship with Jesus Christ who is God with us, is something we share across many denominational boundaries.
One of the most moving moments for me at any ecumenical prayer service is the praying of the Lord’s prayer. When we pray this prayer together with many translations and even in many languages there is a profound experience of unity.
While many of us might know a few prayers by heart, the Lord’s Prayer is unique since it was given to us directly by Jesus. The disciples asked Jesus: “teach us to pray”. He responded “when you pray, say, Our Father, who art in heaven…”
Most Christians feel an inferiority with their prayer. Too often books about prayer do nothing more than convince me that everyone else is praying better I am. I am not a fan of books about prayer. I have read many of them and doubtless they are all well intentioned, but prayer is much more simple than any of the books imply.
If we seek to grow in prayer we don’t need the books because Jesus the divine teacher will guide each of us personally. All we need to do is to ask “Lord, teach me to pray.” This request is already prayer.
It is significant that the fourth section of the Catechism of the Catholic Church titled “Christian Prayer” focusses on the Our Father, and begins with St Therese of Lisieux’ definition of prayer: “For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.”
I like this definition since every day, for a hundred different reasons, my heart surges. Even today, a Monday when I try to take a day off, (now you know why I can say TGIM!) my heart has surged with joy in some moments, with anxiety or anger in others. In every surging, if I allow the surging to turn me towards God, I am praying.
Here’s a suggestion for today.
Because Jesus gave us this prayer, the Our Father, we know it to be a perfect model for prayer. Pray it often knowing that this prayer is the prayer of Jesus and his disciples. Our Christian ancestors prayed in these words at every Eucharist and several times each day, morning and evening, in joy and in sorrow. They prayed it at baptisms, weddings and funerals. They prayed it when sorrow struck and they prayed it when they didn’t know what to pray or how to pray.
Take a moment to pray this prayer now. Pray it when you get into the car and when you stop at the traffic lights. Pray it before you eat. Pray it when you think of or see someone in need. Pray it when you feel anxiety. Pray it when you experience joy. Pray the Our Father before you sleep. Pray it in those many moments when you are not sure how to pray.
NOTE: I’m offering a Lenten reflection session this Wednesday evening 8 March, 7.30-9.00pm at St. Gregory’s meeting room, 28 Cotswold Avenue, Bishopdale, Christchurch. (map here). This session will be helpful for any Christian seeking to grow in maturity of faith. All welcome.