“Our Father, you art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
This prayer, known as the Our Father or The Lord’s Prayer, has been said thousands of times in my life time and from my lips. And yet, about seventeen years ago, I realized for the first time that I was asking the Father to forgive my sins just like I forgive those who trespass against me! In other words, if I do not forgive my enemies, then I am instructing the Father to do the same with me! What an eye opener! What a reminder that you should always read before you sign on the dotted line!
Our Father. One of the greatest revelations given to man by Christ is the fact that God is our Father and not some force or The Force, or the All-Powerful One or The God of Science. No, God is first and foremost a Father. Wherever God is, heaven remains. Heaven came down to earth. Heaven was born in a stable. Heaven came down from the mountain. Heaven was buried in a tomb. Wherever God is, there I want to be. It may feel like a summer embrace or it may feel like nail ripping through my flesh. It doesn’t matter. Where God is, I too want to be. This is what you should pray.
On earth as it is in heaven. For the past five days, I have been giving a couples retreat and every day our group has had to reserve a place for us to celebrate the Holy Mass. Yesterday, I personally went to the front desk of this secular “campsite” and asked to reserve a conference room for the ceremony. I was dressed in casual clothes and so the person in front of me had no idea I was a priest. I asked if I could reserve a room for Mass. The person in charge looked surprised and asked me if I was a Catholic priest. I nodded. She said, “Then I should call you Father, correct?” I said, “Yes.” Then she asked me if I would hear her confession. I said, “Sure. Let’s do it right now.” In front of me was a young foreign worker who had not seen her husband and two small children for over six months! She was in tears and needed to speak to someone. It was beautiful how the Lord brought this person to me. I had never seen her before. But she had been praying to God to be able to open her heart up to someone. Her prayers had been answered. Every time we pray, heaven and earth unite. This is why you should pray.
Give us our daily bread. This is not a request for earthly food but for the food that comes down from Heaven. This food nourishes the heart, mind and soul. This food never perishes. It is forever young and old. The Eucharist has been successfully distributed to billions of people throughout the world for the past two thousand years. It gets us through the tough times of our lives by gently transforming us into the sacred image of our Lord and Savior. Our lives need a little shake-up now and again. Not to destroy it, but to raise and purify it, and free it from its human limitations. Sin, by its very nature, is narrowing: holiness is openness of spirit and greatness of soul. This is how you should pray.
Prayer gives meaning to our life. It is our essential life line to God. It arises from our heart, our needs, our hopes, our joys, our suffering, our shame and our gratitude, and it should always be one hundred percent personal. It is my daily get together with my Almighty and never failing Father.