I admit it, I’m a daddy’s girl. But then, I suspect you’d be hard-pressed to find many girls who don’t think the world of their dad. That includes my five-year-old daughter who thinks her dad can do no wrong.
So given that context, I guess it’s not much of a surprise that the Our Father is one of my favorite prayers. Reciting it reminds me of the many late-night talks I’ve had with my dad at the kitchen table.
This prayer comes as easily to me as one of those conversations. That ex-plains why it’s often the first prayer I turn to when I pray. It was also the first formal prayer I learned as a little girl. The prayer’s origins can be found in both Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels, where Jesus used the prayer as an example of how we should pray.
I often find myself reciting certain lines over and over to myself. When things aren’t going my way, “your will be done” is a good reminder that it’s not all about me and what I want or need.
But those aren’t the only reasons why I love this prayer. In fact, there are a number of other things I love about the Our Father.
One of those things is the fact that the Our Father challenges me. I love to be challenged. It’s often at those times that I feel I grow as a person. So it bothers me when I find myself reciting prayers by rote, feeling unmoved to examine my life or actions or “take it up a notch,” in the well-known words of TV chef Emeril Lagasse. Not so with the Our Father. This prayer takes me to task.
Of course, that’s not to say that the challenge is always welcomed with open arms. Sometimes I’d rather not do God’s will on earth or forgive those who have trespassed against me, thank you very much. But just like my kids, the words of this prayer have a way of wearing down my defenses and winning me over.
And it wastes no time in calling me to action. In the fourth line I’m greeted with “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Excuse me? Are you talking to me, God? Granted, I said I like to be challenged, but aren’t we setting some lofty goals? Yeah, I guess that is the whole point.
When I recite the line “as we forgive those who trespass against us,” I can’t ignore what it’s telling me to do. Sure, it’s easy enough to ask God to forgive me for the things I’ve done wrong. I’ve done that many times before.
But then I’m supposed to turn around and forgive those who have done me wrong? That’s not always so easy. Sometimes I try to breeze past that line when reciting the prayer, but there’s no getting around it. It trips me up every time. I can’t say those words and then not act. It’s kind of like when my parents used to tell me, “You do what you think is best.”
The other thing I love about this prayer is that nearly every line seems to resonate with my everyday life.
In fact, I used to have a T-shirt that read, “Lead me not into temptation....I can find it myself.” How true that is. Whenever I wore that shirt I could see the smiles it would evoke on people’s faces—that “been there, done that” sort of look.
And what about the line “give us this day our daily bread”? I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had someone reassure me that, no matter what challenge I’m facing, God will give me whatever I need in order to meet the challenge head-on. And mostly they’re right.
And that’s why I keep returning to this prayer. I cling to it because it comforts me, challenges me and reminds me that, no matter what, God is always there for me, just like my dad.
Next month: St. Teresa's Bookmark