Having just completed the liturgical seasons of Advent and Christmas, the Church returns to a short stretch of Ordinary Time before ramping things up again with Lent which begins February 22. Beginning the Sunday after next (January 29) we will hear from the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, arguably Jesus’s most important teachings given during the time of His public ministry.
Among those teachings (though we will not hear it during Ordinary Time this year) is Jesus’s instruction on how to pray as He gives us the Lord’s Prayer. This is such a profound prayer, but sadly, due to it’s familiarity, we can often just recite it without thinking what we are saying. To show this point, I once heard a rather funny story that goes like this:
There were two individuals walking together, one of whom had a horse that belonged to him. They were discussing the difficulty of staying attentive during prayer. The man with the horse shared how he can’t even make it through the Our Father without getting distracted. The other man laughed, as he was convinced that he could keep focused through the entire recitation of this simple, short prayer. The man with the horse said: “Ok, let’s make a deal. If you can pray the Lord’s Prayer without getting distracted, I’ll give you this horse.” The other man smiled and gladly accepted the challenge, and he began: “Our Father, who art in Heaven, hollowed be thy name.” At this point, he stopped and asked the man with the horse: “Does the saddle come with the horse?”
This is indeed a humorous example of how easily we can get distracted when we pray, and I bet that many of us can relate with this story in some way.
As you may recall, the focus of our Family of Faith catechesis for this year is the fourth section of the Catechism on Christian Prayer. Among the various types of prayer, the Lord’s Prayer stands out as the model for all prayer. The Catechism calls the Lord’s Prayer “the summary of the whole Gospel” (CCC 2761) and St. Augustine wrote the following about it: “The Lord’s Prayer is the most perfect of prayers.… In it we ask, not only for all the things we can rightly desire, but also in the sequence that they should be desired. This prayer not only teaches us to ask for things, but also in what order we should desire them.” (CCC 2763)
As our children meet for their catechesis this month, they will be spending time focusing on the Lord’s Prayer, learning about the various petitions that are contained in the prayer and how this prayer serves as a privileged way for us, as beloved children of God, to address Him, our good and loving Father.
Perhaps we could take on a little challenge for the rest of the month. I am fairly confident that many of you pray the Lord’s Prayer every day, but the quantity of this prayer is not the main thing. We are looking for quality. So I invite you to pray the Lord’s Prayer every day, but do so with as much attention as possible. Pause before you pray it each time, recognizing that you come before the Father as His adopted son or daughter. Be reminded how the Father delights to give good things to those who ask Him. (cf. Mt. 7:11) Then pray the prayer with faith and love, and let this familiar prayer become a place of renewal in your relationship with the Lord.