In yesterday’s Gospel, we saw Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening to his word. Anyone who listens to the Word of God has to give a response in prayer. In this way, today’s Gospel continues with the Gospel of yesterday the narrating of the account in which Jesus, because of his way of prayer, communicates to the disciples the desire to pray, to learn to pray from him.
Luke 11, 1: Jesus, example of prayer. “One day, Jesus was in a certain place praying and when he had finished one of his disciples said to him: ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples’”. This petition of the disciples is strange, because at that time people learnt to pray since they were small. Everyone prayed three times a day, in the morning, at noon and in the evening. They prayed very much using the Psalms. They had their devotional practices, they had the Psalms, they had weekly meetings in the Synagogue and daily encounters at home. But it seemed that this was not enough. The disciple wanted more: “Teach us to pray!” In the attitude of Jesus he discovers that he could still advance more, and that for this he needed some initiation. The desire to pray was in all of them, but the way of praying needs a help. The way of praying attains maturity throughout life and changes through the centuries. Jesus was a good teacher: He taught how to pray with the words and with the witness.
Luke 11, 2-4: The prayer of the Our Father. “Jesus answers: “When you pray this is what you have to say: Father, may your name be held holy, your kingdom come; give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive each one who is in debt with us. And do not put us to the test”.In the Gospel of Matthew, in quite a didactic way, Jesus summarizes all his teaching in seven petitions addressed to the Father. Here in Luke’s Gospel the petitions are five. In these five requests, Jesus repeats the great promises of the Old Testament and asks that the Father help us to fulfill them. The first three (or two) speak to us about our relationship with God. The other four (or three) speak to us about the relationship among us.
Introduction: Our Father who are in heaven
1st request: Hallowed be your Name
2nd request: Your Kingdom come
3rd request: Your will be done
4th request: Our daily bread
5th request: Forgive our offences
6th request: Lead us not into temptation
7th request: Deliver us from evil
Father (Our): The title expresses the new relationship with God (Father). It is the basis of fraternity.
a) To sanctify the Name: the Name of Yahweh I am with you! God with us. God made himself known with this NAME (Ex 3, 11-15). The Name of God is sanctified when it is used with faith and not with magic; when it is used according to its true objective, that is, not for oppression, but for the liberation of the people and for the construction of the Kingdom.
b) Your Kingdom come: The only Lord and King of human life is God (Is 45, 21; 46, 9). The arrival of the Kingdom is the realization of all the hopes and promises. It is the fullness of life, the overcoming of frustration suffered with the kings and human governments. This Kingdom will come when the will of God will be completely fulfilled.
c) The daily bread: In Exodus, the people every day received the manna in the desert (Ex 16, 35). Divine Providence passed for the fraternal organization, for sharing. Jesus invites us to fulfil a new Exodus, a new way of sharing in a fraternal spirit which will guarantee the bread for all (Mt 6, 34-44; Jn 6, 48-51).
d) Forgiveness of debts: Every 50 years, the Jubilee Year obliged everybody to forgive the debts. It was a new beginning (Lev 25, 8-55). Jesus announces a new Jubilee Year, “a year of grace from the Lord” (Lk 4, 19). The Gospel wants to begin everything new! Today, the external debt is not forgiven! Luke changes “debts” for “sins”.
e) Not to fall into temptation: In Exodus the people were tempted and fell (Deut 9, 6-12). They complained and wanted to go back. (Ex 16, 3; 17, 3). In the new Exodus, the temptation was overcome thanks to the force that people received from God (1Co 10, 12-13).
The witness of the prayer of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke:
- At twelve years old, he goes to the Temple, in the House of the Father (Lk 2, 46-50).
- When he was baptized and he assumes his mission, he prays (Lk 3, 21).
- When he begins his mission, he spends forty days in the desert (Lk 4, 1-2).
- At the hour of temptation, he faces the Devil with texts from Scripture (Lk 4, 3-12).
- Jesus usually participated in the celebrations in the Synagogues, on Saturday (Lk 4, 16)
- He looks for the solitude of the desert to pray (Lk 5, 16; 9, 18).
- On the day before he chose the twelve Apostles, he spent the night in prayer (Lk 6, 12).
- He prays before meals (Lk 9, 16; 24, 30).
- He prays before presenting the reality and before speaking about his Passion (Lk 9, 18).
- In time of crisis, he goes up to the mountain to pray, is transfigured while he prays (Lk 9, 28).
- When the Gospel is revealed to the little ones, he says: “Father I thank you!” (Lk 10, 21)
- By praying he awakens in the Apostles the desire to pray (Lk 11, 1).
- He prays for Peter so that his faith will not fail (Lk 22, 32).
- He celebrates the Paschal Supper with his disciples (Lk 22, 7-14).
- In the Garden of Olives, he prays while his sweat fell like drops of blood (Lk 22, 41-42).
- In his anguish he asks his friends to pray with him (Lk 22, 40.46).
- When he was nailed to the cross, he asks for pardon for the bandits (Lk 23, 34).
- At the hour of his death, he says: “Into your hands I commit my spirit!” (Lk 23, 46; Ps 31, 6)
- Jesus dies sending out the cry of the poor (Lk 23, 46).
Do I pray? How do I pray? What does prayer mean for me?
Our Father: I go over the five petitions and examine how I live them in my life
Praise Yahweh, all nations,
extol him, all peoples,
for his faithful love is strong
and his constancy never-ending. (Ps 117,1-2)
This homily is from the Carmelites at at ocarm.org