Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The perfect prayer

" 'The Lord's Prayer [the “Our Father”] is the most perfect of prayers… In it we ask, not only for all the things we can rightly desire, but also in the sequence that they should be desired'" (Catechism of the Catholic Church #2763, quoting St Thomas Aquinas). " 'Run through all the words of the holy prayers [in Scripture], and I do not think that you will find anything in them that is not contained and included in the Lord's Prayer' 2 " (Catechism of the Catholic Church #2762, Quoting St Augustine).

This is the prayer that is Christ's answer to his disciples' plea, "Teach us to pray" (Lk 11:1). That is why it is called "the Lord's Prayer". It is the perfect prayer because it comes from the perfect Pray-er. We learn to pray by going to Jesus' school of prayer. And in that school the single teacher wrote the single textbook, one with just fifty-five words.

Instead of giving us psychological techniques, Christ gives us the actual words of a prayer. "But Jesus does not give us a formula to repeat mechanically [cf. Mt 6:7; I Kings 18:26-29]… Jesus not only gives us the words of our filial prayer; at the same time he gives us the Spirit by whom these words become in us 'spirit and life' (Jn 6:63]" (Catechism of the Catholic Church #2766). Christ gives us these words, not like a book, to read, but like a piece of sheet music, to sing.

We must pray this prayer not just with our words but with our minds, and not just with our minds but with our hearts. In fact, we will understand it with our minds only when we will it with our hearts. We will understand what God reveals only when we will what God wills. (That is what Jesus says in John 7:17 and in Matthew 5:8.)

From Catholic Christianity, by Peter Kreeft

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