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Father Muench Says...

The Our Father: a transformative prayer

Aug. 3, 2016

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

My friend, Joe, a Catholic layman, shared this story with me ages ago.  On this particular day of the story, he was driving somewhere and came upon an automobile accident.  Actually, he was among the first to stop.  He immediately noticed a man who had been thrown clear of the cars – but was alert.

Joe went over and talked with him; he knew only too well that he shouldn’t try to move him at all.  So, he told him he would stay with him until the rescue squad arrived.  He asked him if he was a Catholic and he was.  So, Joe suggested that they say the rosary while they were waiting.  They then continue to pray the Our Fathers and the Hail Marys until the ambulance came.

What a handy prayer these prayers are.

I am certain you remember the gospel story when the Lord Jesus taught the apostles what we call the Lord’s Prayer.  The picture is the apostles seeing Jesus praying so they asked him to teach them to pray and they add “like John the Baptist taught his disciples.”

Now we don’t know what John’s prayers were like – wouldn’t it be interesting to know.  However, we know that Jesus began teaching them by sharing with them the Lord’s Prayer.  The Lord’s Prayer is a perfect prayer. When we fully understand the words, we are saying something so beautiful and, so very challenging.

On this summer day, I would like to think about this prayer.  You and I memorized the Lord’s Prayer as children.  It was a gift.  It was always with us.  When the priest visited our elementary classroom, we could pray with him saying together the Our Father.

As a priest, there have been so many times when I wanted people to join me in prayer. As Catholics I knew that they knew the Lord’s Prayer.  I think of the times visiting a patient in the hospital when I wanted to end the visit in prayer; I was certain we could join together in saying the Lord’s Prayer.  I also remember many times, being with a family at the death bed of a loved one and bringing them to prayer by inviting them to say the Lord’s Prayer with me.

Consider this wonderful prayer.  Jesus begins the prayer by making certain that the apostles and we know exactly who God is – Our Father.  Our God is the God of Jesus.  Our God is not an Old Testament God of fear and punishment.  Our God is a loving and caring Father.

Like a good Father, Our God knows us, Our Father understands, Our Father wants to always be with us.  Our God wants a unique relationship with us like a good Father with his children. 

We can approach him in prayer. Jesus tells we can petition him. Jesus asks us to listen to him.  Jesus has taught us how we must live in this relationship with Our God, who is Our Father.  The challenge for us is to allow God to be Our Father – to be a part of all we do.

Jesus’ Lord’s Prayer – that is such a part of our life that we say it over and over again – begins with us to praise Our God,  to remind ourselves how much God Our Father constantly helps and guides us.  Each time we say this prayer we are expressing our gratitude to Our God for all he does for us.

This prayer challenges us to follow the Lord’s all to be a loving, forgiving people.  We make a covenant with Our God – a deal with the Lord.  “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” 

Each time we pray the Lord’s Prayer we are reminded of who we must be a Catholics, that we must have the willingness to be a truly forgiving people. We want and need God’s forgiveness and so we should be forgiving ourselves.

We complete our pray by asking the Lord to guides us, to “deliver us from evil.”  Our world is so full of dangerous, evil temptations that want to keep us from the Lord and his peace.  In recent times, we know the terrible evils, we know the presence of violence and temptations to hatred, all that could easily push us into anger.  All of this is so evil – may God Our Father protect us from such evils.

Each time we pause to pray and say over and over the Lord’s Prayer – that wonderful prayer – may the presence of god the Father become so real and alive in our lives.  This wonderful prayer is so transforming.

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