Godtalk: Praying the Lord's Prayer


Words of the Lord's Prayer

When we reflect on the Lord's Prayer, we begin by recognizing that we are adopted children, and as such we have a passionate attachment to our home. We want to be where Christ is fully present: this is our home in the deepest sense. We are growing and moving into the prayer of Christ Jesus himself.  We note the seriousness of inviting God to forgive us as we have forgiven. But what does it mean to pray, 'Lead us not into temptation'? Surely God does not make us be tempted?

In the Bible, holy people are tempted all the time, but being led into temptation would be like being dropped into it, with no way out. This is what we pray to be defended from. God never drops us into the heart of temptation with no equipment to face it and no way out.

And here Christ is always our model, as he prays that God's will should be done in the middle of the most indescribable pressure and pain. He is exposed to temptation but not led into it unprepared; we pray that his life in us may be strong enough to help us survive.

The Lord’s Prayer is an example for all prayer; 'Let your prayer be frequent and brief'’ say many writers.  If we try too soon to spend a long time in prayer, the chances are we'll end up with cramp and lots of distractions. We'll find other things to think of apart from God. But 'frequent and brief does not mean just uttering the odd casual word. 'Frequent' means 'keep at it: make it habitual'         

As we move through this process of praying we are likely to find ourselves overtaken with quite a bit of emotional churning. We may be quite shaken by it. We may find ourselves in tears both of repentance and of joy, because something is going on in us, the landscape is being changed. Prayer, more and more, is not something we do, but what we are letting God do in us.

And when that happens, it is not surprising that we may get a bit wobbly, and become baffled and depressed as well. Don't panic!  For when those disturbances are going on, it is likely that God is beginning to settle down more deeply in us. 

Remember that what we are moving towards is finally the relationship of Jesus to the Father. That union of the Father and Son and the Son with the Father should be gradually filling our senses and our minds. It is about being an embodied person living in a particular place and yet seeing all that is around us in the light of God, because prayer has become habitual.

To become settled in prayer and keep our minds anchored when they are inclined to fly off in different directions we need a formula. We need a simple, brief form of words that just calls us back to where we belong. One possibility is 'O God, make haste to help me' - the words that begin each of the Offices in the Divine Office, and that echo the words of Psalm 40.13.

So when we find our mind drifting off, when in a period that we have tried to devote to prayer we find ourself thinking, 'I must check my emails’ just say ‘O God make haste to help me’ and  keep at it.  To be faithful to that one phrase is a sign that we are serious and promised to be there.


From ‘Being Christian’ by Rowan Williams, edited

Peter Knott SJ