A powerful and effective prayer

by May Tam

Ah, “The Lord's prayer” – the prayer of all prayers!

Ocean of ink has been spilled on these very words that Jesus, the Son of God, taught us. A prayer that has been said throughout many generations, by both the living and the dying; prayed by countless sinners and saints, young and old; recited in good times and in bad times, but most of the time, perhaps due to our familiarity with it, in thoughtless mechanical repetitions!

But this tremendous gift that Jesus left us was intended to shape the whole of our interior life which begins first, with praise and adoration to God the Father – “hallowed be Thy name”; then petitions for His glory, our need for sustenance and forgiveness, and our total dependence on Him in the face of evil. Out of all the petitions in the Lord's Prayer, there is one place where our own activity is specifically mentioned – our sins/debts/trespasses. We acknowledge we are sinners and are in dire need of forgiveness. We are also assured that others are going to offend us, and that they are also in need of forgiveness. We ask God to treat us with the same measure of mercy we show to others. By asking such, we take an active part in placing our own salvation on the attitude of forgiveness toward others. The parable and the teachings that followed, in our Gospel Reading today, are further explanations of the power of prayer and the correct and necessary attitude of praying.

Truly, experiences deny the fact that every prayer will be answered but faith shows us that God in His goodness, knows how to provide what is best to us. Prayers are not only for ourselves but also for others, like Abraham pleaded for the people in Sodom and Gomorrah in the First reading. The psalmist, on the other hand, asserted his trust in God, “the Lord will fulfill his purpose for me”. The man in Jesus' parable was also begging bread for his visiting friend. Those who pray or ask demonstrate their confidence in God or to the one being asked. By continually asking, seeking and knocking, those who pray gain God's favor, for they grow in the spirit of the poor and the lowly and acquire the virtue of humility (rf Ps 82:3-4; 140:12; Prv 14:21, 31; 17:5; 19:17; 21:13; Is 58:6-10, Mt 25:40, Lk 14 12-14).

Jesus taught us to address God as 'Our Father'. With this privilege, what claims can we not make upon Him but our own reluctance to forgive!