The Gospel text for Tuesday of the First Week of Lent is always Matthew 6: 7 – 15, the Lord’s Prayer. Within the context of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus teaches the disciples his prayer, how to pray. The foundations of this prayer are found in the Hebrew scriptures, the Old Testament texts indicating the type of relationship we can have with God. The ongoing challenge in our busy world is making time for that relationship, making time for prayer, listening to God and so Jesus gives us a few brief words that we often pray. Outside of Sunday Eucharist, daily Mass, or praying the rosary we may simply pray this prayer individually, but clearly it is meant to be prayed communally.
It is one of the three legs of our Lenten preparations, almsgiving, fasting and prayer. These are the hallmark disciplines of our preparations for Easter, to renew our baptismal promises at the Easter Vigil and to live faithfully. Jesus taught the disciples how to pray in brief succinct words: “Do not babble like the pagans do,” Jesus says. So, in this prayer we can take time and sit with each word for a very long time, praying each phrase like savoring a favorite food or a very good glass of wine. In this prayer we can learn of God’s relationship with us, God’s characteristics, God’s holiness, the hope for the coming of God’s kingdom, the reality of sin and our need for God’s forgiveness, and the real issue of temptation and trial and God’s willingness to give guidance through those times. What is really remarkable about this prayer is that even though we can pray it individually, it seems to be meant to pray it communally. We do not pray “My Father” but “Our Father.” We do not pray for “my daily bread” but “our daily bread.” We do not pray “forgive me” but “forgive us ….” Our life of faith is not just between me and God but between God and all of God’s people. Through this prayer we are connected to everyone, and we are challenged to be connected to everyone.
In the final verses of this passage Jesus is even clearer about the act of forgiveness. The effectiveness of praying this prayer depends on how much we forgive others. We know God is always willing to forgive us and God does forgive us, but if we don’t forgive others who have hurt us, whether living or deceased, well… then our prayer is truly in the hands of God. Throughout Lent, if we not know how to pray or what to pray for, we can pray this brief, succinct prayer which provides a fertile source for thought, reflection, contemplation and meditation. Along with almsgiving, and fasting, we can experience a powerful Lent.
Blessings – Father Larry