The Lord’s Prayer is a tremendous gift

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gensis 18:20 - 32

In those days, the LORD said: "The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great, and their sin so grave, that I must go down and see whether or not their actions fully correspond to the cry against them that comes to me. I mean to find out." While Abraham's visitors walked on farther toward Sodom, the LORD remained standing before Abraham. Then Abraham drew nearer and said: "Will you sweep away the innocent with the guilty? Suppose there were fifty innocent people in the city; would you wipe out the place, rather than spare it for the sake of the fifty innocent people within it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to make the innocent die with the guilty so that the innocent and the guilty would be treated alike! Should not the judge of all the world act with justice?" The LORD replied, "If I find fifty innocent people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake." Abraham spoke up again: "See how I am presuming to speak to my Lord, though I am but dust and ashes! What if there are five less than fifty innocent people? Will you destroy the whole city because of those five?" He answered, "I will not destroy it, if I find forty-five there." But Abraham persisted, saying "What if only forty are found there?" He replied, "I will forbear doing it for the sake of the forty." Then Abraham said, "Let not my Lord grow impatient if I go on. What if only thirty are found there?" He replied, "I will forbear doing it if I can find but thirty there." Still Abraham went on, "Since I have thus dared to speak to my Lord, what if there are no more than twenty?" The LORD answered, "I will not destroy it, for the sake of the twenty." But he still persisted: "Please, let not my Lord grow angry if I speak up this last time. What if there are at least ten there?" He replied, "For the sake of those ten, I will not destroy it."

Colossians 2:12-14

Brothers and sisters: You were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. And even when you were dead in transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, he brought you to life along with him, having forgiven us all our transgressions; obliterating the bond against us, with its legal claims, which was opposed to us, he also removed it from our midst, nailing it to the cross.

Luke 11:1-13

Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples." He said to them, "When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test." And he said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend to whom he goes at midnight and says, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey and I have nothing to offer him,' and he says in reply from within, 'Do not bother me; the door has already been locked and my children and I are already in bed. I cannot get up to give you anything.' I tell you, if he does not get up to give the visitor the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence. "And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish? Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?"

Luke’s and Matthew’s (Mt 6:9-13) version of the Our Father are different. Although the Lucan version is shorter and less familiar, by setting it in the moment immediately after Jesus’ prayer, Luke presents three aspects of prayers that Jesus teaches His disciples.

  • Proper attitude of prayer (v1-4)
    The heart of a prayer is its preoccupation with God – our communication is with Him only, and our focus fixated on Him only. The Lord’s Prayer is a perfect example of what Christian prayer should be. Characterized by its filial piety toward God the Father, it exhorts God’s divinity and sovereignty over man, acknowledging Him as the one to whom we owe our daily sustenance. Petitions in prayer must be accompanied by reciprocal manner and action, in this case, the necessity of forgiving others as a condition of obtaining our own forgiveness from God.

  • Importance of persistence in prayer (v5-8)
    Jesus uses a parable to stress the significance of this aspect. The parable is similar to that of the “unjust judge” parable where Jesus tells His disciples to “always pray and not lose heart” (Lk 18:1-5). While perseverance in asking is commended, it should be accompanied by humble supplication and childlike trust of the providential plan. Avoid thoughtless and mechanical repetitions.

  • Effectiveness of prayer (v9-13)
    Sometimes it may appear that our prayers are not answered. This happens because God’s timing is not always the same as ours. He does not necessarily intervene immediately. But He certainly knows when and how to provide what is the best for us. By continually asking, seeking and knocking, we become more and more like the poor and lowly, which in turn makes our prayers more acceptable to God.

The Lord’s Prayer is a tremendous gift for these are the very words of Jesus. By the invocations in first person plural (Our Father…give us…forgive us…deliver us), Jesus aligns His own prayer as the Son of God to the prayer of His disciples, allowing them to participate in His familial intimacy with God the Father. Whether it is prayed individually or communally, it helps to shape our hearts. Daring to call God “Father”, we are challenged to know what we pray, believe what we pray and live what we pray. Indeed, to do so is a privilege.

Posted: July 24, 2016

May Tam

May Tam, Bachelor of Social Science (University of Hong Kong), Master of Theological Studies (University of Toronto)

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