October 17, 2016

Reflection: Considering The Lord’s Prayer

Christ teaching the disciples the Our Father
Christ teaching the Lord's Prayer, unknown artist, c. 1200.

Father Thomas Mattison

To properly engage in a consideration of The Lord’s Prayer we need to consider, first of all, the Lord’s praying. And pray he did! He said grace before meals, he attended the Temple in Jerusalem, followed the liturgical year of his religion, was in the synagogue each weekend and he prayed personally and privately. Indeed, it was because they saw him praying that the disciples asked him to teach them to pray.

What was Jesus’ prayer like? … [It is important to] … notice the results of His prayer. After all, this is what the disciples would have noticed when He finished praying.

Two examples will suffice.

The first occurs early in His public career. After a whole day spent doing healings in Capernaum, Jesus goes to sleep and rises early to go out of town to pray. When His apostles come looking for Him because there are more sick people to be cured, He refuses. I must go into other places too and there proclaim the Kingdom of God. This is why I have come.

This prayer experience for Jesus that leads Him away from a path directed toward people and their happiness to a path directed by and to God alone, a discovery born of prayer.

The Agony in the Garden provides us with a second instance of Jesus’ prayer. And it offers us much the same insight. Jesus begins by asking that the “cup might pass.” He ends by asking “not My will, but Thine be done.”

The result of this prayer is even more radical than in the first example. No longer seeking to please people, Jesus foregoes the desire to please Himself and, in prayer, becomes willing to face hostility and death because they are the Father’s will for Him.

As the Son of God, Jesus’ will is always and everywhere perfectly attuned to that of His heavenly Father. But, as Son of Man, He must be trained and educated in that will and in obedience to it.

This is what it says in the Letter to the Hebrews. Son though He was, Jesus learned obedience from His sufferings and, once perfected in obedience, He became the source of eternal life for those who trust Him.

Jesus’ personal prayer was an ongoing meeting of His own will and His Father’s. Over the course of time, that prayer brought Jesus from a reasonable human love of being loved to a willingness to be unloved by all, if only He was loved by God.

The perfect expression of that prayer experience is found in His last prayer: "Father, into Your hands I commend my spirit." It is movement toward that final prayer of His, that Jesus counsels as the essence of discipleship: "Whoever wishes to follow Me, must take up his cross each day."

It was this prayer experience that Jesus sought to share with His disciples when they asked to pray like Him.
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Fr. Thomas Mattison is Pastor of Christ our Savior Parish in Manchester Center and Arlington, VT. 

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