The model prayer

By Fr. Roy Cimagala

“IN praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words.” (Mt 6,7) With these words, Christ is telling us to be wary of the dangers of the way we pray. And he immediately tells us how to pray. Thus, we now have what is known as the Lord’s Prayer, or the “Our Father.”

We need to realize that this is the model prayer that shows us what dispositions we ought to have when we pray, how we ought to address God our Father, what we have to ask, etc. Thus, we have to assume the spirit with which the prayer is given to us by Christ.

In the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, we are told that “the Lord’s Prayer reveals us to ourselves at the same time that it reveals the Father to us.” (2783)

In other words, we are told who we really are and who God is to us. Thus, no matter how our life here on earth goes, we should never forget that we are children of God who will do everything to bring us back to him. Psalm 129 reinforces this truth of our faith: “With the Lord, there is mercy and fullness of redemption.”

We just have to make sure also that, as expressed in this prayer, we also have to be merciful to everyone just as God is merciful to us. “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

We have to understand that forgiveness or mercy is the ultimate expression of love which is the very essence of God and which is also meant to be essence of our humanity since we are God’s image and likeness, children of his.

And as if to underscore the importance of this point, Christ reiterated: “For if you will forgive men their offences, your heavenly Father will forgive you also your offences. But if you will not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive you your offences.” (Mt 6,14-15) It’s clear therefore that we can only be forgiven if we also forgive others.

We have to be clear that this injunction is meant for everyone, and not only for a few whom we may consider to be religiously inclined. That’s why when asked how many times we should forgive, he said not only seven times, but seventy times seven, meaning always.

That’s also why he easily forgave the woman caught in adultery. And to those whom he cured of their illnesses, it was actually the forgiveness of their sins that he was more interested in.

To top it all, Christ allowed himself to die on the cross as a way to forgive all of our sins, and to convert our sins through his resurrection as a way to our own redemption. What he did for us he also expects, nay, commands that we also do for everybody else.

Thus that indication that if we want to follow him, we have to deny ourselves, carry the cross and follow him.

It is presumed that all of us sin one way or another. That’s why St. John said: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 Jn 1,8) I am sure that our personal experience can bear that out easily.

We really need to live the spirit behind this model prayer!