Prayer is God’s initiative. Our very desire to pray is already prayer as it is an awareness of God’s invitation to relationship. By our very nature, we are prayerful beings because we are a living, craving, hunger and desire to be one with God and one another. Our very fulfillment and joy will only come from developing and deepening our relationship with God.
Yet, many of us, though we desire to pray do not know how to pray. This was true for the disciples as well. They saw something different about Jesus in his prayer. So we hear in the Gospel today from Luke: “Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1). Jesus then shared with his disciples the model and form of prayer which can help us today as well.
The first movement in our prayer is to acknowledge God’s invitation for dialogue, for relationship. If we pray, we often start and may only stay in monologue, our speaking to God, our imploring God for our needs. These often take the form of petitions for ourselves and intentions for others. Is this wrong? No. But if this is our only prayer, we will miss the very core of what prayer is and that is communication and relationship with God. If we approach our family and friendships only in this way, we can imagine the shallow relationships we would have.
Jesus teaches us to acknowledge and approach God first: “Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.” We recognize that God is holy, he is our Lord, we are not. We come to experience the God who has created all that exists, the God that transcends all of creation, time and space, loves us more than we can imagine, and wants to spend time with us. He wants to make his will known in our life and invites us to be collaborators in building his kingdom on earth.
As we come to know God, his will for our life, we will better know what to ask him in prayer, that which will be for our highest hope and good, such that our will becomes more aligned to his will. We will be lured less by apparent, material and finite goods and come to see how God provides for our daily needs and appreciate the simple gifts and wonders of life.
One of the greatest gifts that is found in Jesus’ instruction of prayer and living as his disciple is growing as people of forgiveness. For to forgive, one must be focused on willing the good of the other and not the self. We do not have to look far to recognize that we do not do forgiveness well. When we struggle with forgiveness, we can ask the Father, as Jesus did on the Cross, to forgive others through us. We need to go to God honestly and say, “God I am not willing to forgive this person, help me to forgive. Father forgive this person through me that I may come to forgive as well.” To forgive, we need to be people of prayer.
Jesus help us to recognize that the very desire to pray is already an acceptance of God in our life, reaching out to us, inviting us to build a more intimate relationship with him. Teach us to pray, to come to acknowledge God as our Father, to place God first in our lives and ask him to be the Lord of every aspect of our lives.
Jesus, open our minds and hearts to the love of the Holy Spirit such that we may better serve God through our brothers and sisters in need and so be collaborators in helping to build his kingdom on earth. Help us to discern the difference between our wants and needs, to embrace a simple life open to the wonder of the gift of life at every stage of development for all people and all of your creation. And each day Jesus, teach us to forgive as you have forgiven us.