By Eric Martin
Pope Francis has last year launched a new series of catechesis on The Our Father. Here is Part One.
The inherent beauty and depth of The Lord’s Prayer is something that has been reverently celebrated by Christians, especially Catholics, since the Lord first gave us his example of prayer some 2000 years ago, Pope Francis has explained, in the first of his series of catechesis on The Our Father.
“The Gospels have given us a very vivid portrait of Jesus as a man of prayer,” Pope Francis said in the introductory catechetical instruction.
“Despite the importance of His mission, and the demands placed on Him by the people, Jesus often felt the need “to withdraw into solitude and pray.” This was evident from the very beginning of His mission, after the initial success of his ministry in Galilee.
“In some places in the Scriptures,” Pope Francis continued, “it seems that it is Jesus’ prayer above all, His intimacy with the Father, that governs everything.” This is particularly evident during the agony in the garden, before the Crucifixion.
“Our Father’ is one prayer that demonstrates a belief that God’s will desires the good of the world,” Pope Francis said.
“The Lord’s Prayer ignites in us the same love of Jesus for the will of the Father, a flame that drives us to transform the world with love.”
Before expanding on the seven petitions of the Our Father, Pope Francis highlighted the first and most important lesson imparted by the Lord – the fact that when faced with his earthly mission, because of its urgency and importance, Jesus himself was a man of constant and consistent prayer.
“Despite the demands on him by the many people around him, Jesus would still take the time to pray. Like it says in the first chapter of Mark: Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.”
“Here is the essential point,” he said, “Jesus prayed. Jesus prayed intensely in public moments, sharing the liturgy of his people, but he also sought collected places, separate from the spin of the world, places that allowed him to descend into the secret of his soul.”
Pope Francis highlighted the fact that the way Jesus prayed “also contained a mystery, something that certainly did not escape the eyes of his disciples, as we find in the Gospels that simple and immediate supplication: ‘Lord, teach us to pray’.”
Expanding on the theme, Pope Francis urged everyone to follow the example of the disciples in their hunger for seeking the right words to communicate with God.
“He came precisely to introduce us into this relationship [with] the Father.” he said. “Therefore, beginning this cycle of catechesis on the prayer of Jesus, the most beautiful and fair thing that we all have to do is to repeat the invocation of the disciples – Teacher, teach us to pray!’
The Holy Father drew attention to the Lord’s defence of the effectiveness of prayer in the Gospel of Luke, where he says, “Ask and it will be given to you; search and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; everyone who searches finds; everyone who knocks will have the door opened.”
“With these words Jesus makes us understand that God always answers, that no prayer will remain unheard,” Pope Francis said, before explaining that our lack of understanding of His ways meant that we can often feel discouraged when our prayers don’t seem to be answered immediately or in the manner that we expect.
“We can be sure that God will answer,” he said. “The only uncertainty is due to the time, but we do not doubt that He will answer. Maybe we will have to insist for a lifetime, but He will answer.”
“Jesus says: ‘Will God not do justice to his elect, who cry day and night to him?’ Yes, he will do justice, he will listen to us,” Pope Francis stated.
“What a day of glory and resurrection will it be! Praying is now the victory over loneliness and despair.”