Monday, November 26, 2007

The Lord's Prayer from Jesus of Nazareth

I was catching up on my Jesus of Nazareth readings last week when I came across some really beautiful thoughts in the Holy Father's chapter on the Lord's Prayer.

The Sermon on the Mount, as we have seen, draws a comprehensive portrait of the right way to live. It aims to show us how to be a human being. We could sum up its fundamental insights by saying that man can be understood only in light of God, and that his life is made righteous only when he lives it in relation to God. But God is not some distant stranger. He shows us his face in Jesus. In what Jesus does and wills, we come to know the mind and will of God himself.

If being human is essentially about relation to God, it is clear that speaking with, and listening to, God is an essential part of it. This is why the Sermon on the Mount also includes a teaching about prayer. The Lord tells us how we are to pray.

We are at our most attentive when we are driven by inmost need to ask God for something or are prompted by a joyful heart to thank him for good things that have happened to us. Most importantly, though, our relationship to God should not be confined to such momentary situations, but should be present as the bedrock of our soul. In order for that to happen, this relation has to be constantly revived and the affairs of our everyday lives have to be constantly related back to it. The more the depths of our souls are directed toward God, the better we will be able to pray. The more prayer is the foundation that upholds our entire existence, the more we will become men of peace. The more we can bear pain, the more we will be able to understand others and open ourselves to them. This orientation pervasively shaping our whole consciousness, this silent presence of God at the heart of our thinking, our meditating, and our being, is what we mean by "prayer without ceasing." This is ultimately what we mean by love of God, which is at the same time the condition and the driving force behind love of neighbor.

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