Today’s gospel opens with Jesus’ praying, and then being asked to teach his disciples how to pray as John the Baptist taught his disciples to pray. What follows is Luke’s version of the Our Father. While called the “Lord’s Prayer,” neither Matthew’s nor Luke’s version is Jesus’ prayer. That prayer happens in the agony in the garden and on the cross.
This is how we are to pray. We begin with our relationship to God, really Jesus’ relationship to God as Father. And to Jesus’ Father, who is our Father. Our Father is generous, compassionate, caring, and faithful. In the prayer we are called to honor God’s name, to see the reign of God over us and our world, to forgive each other (daily or hourly?), to hope that we can be like God, faithful to and at the end.
The early Church prayed this prayer three and more times a day. Matthew’s version is part of the liturgy. When we prepare adults to be received into the Church, we give them the treasures of the Church—the Our Father and the Creed. St. Ignatius of Loyola teaches what he terms “the second method of prayer”—the Our Father—in the Spiritual Exercises. Ignatius invites us to pull the prayer apart slowly, savoring each word or phrase, letting ourselves be held in Our Father’s arms. This is a prayer for the community, even when said alone. It is a prayer of mission. It is a prayer of trust. It is a prayer of forgiveness—daily, hourly, long term, or right now. How do you pray this prayer? How do you live this prayer?
—Fr. Jim Dixon, S.J. serves as chaplain to the Ignatian Volunteer Corps and is Superior of the Woodlawn Jesuit Residence, Chicago IL.