Fr Paul reads from the Gospel of Matthew (6: 7-15) in which Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray.
Today, Fr Pauls says, we hear Jesus delivering part of the Sermon on the Mount and Matthew, whose Gospel we are reading from today, places ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ right in the middle. In doing so, it interrupts a long passage on doing good works in secret.
If we understand that the Sermon on the Mount is Matthew gathering together the teachings of Jesus for entering into the kingdom of heaven then we will also realise that Matthew has deliberately placed ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ in the very the centre of these teachings.
Fr Paul says, if we critically look at how ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ has been composed by Jesus we will see that it begins with an invocation where we call out to God, ‘Our Father, who art in heaven…’, and then the rest of the prayer is divided into two halves. Each half consists of three requests.
In the first half, the first three requests relate to God: ‘hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done…’. It talks to God about God’s will and about the coming of God’s kingdom. It also places the name of God as such a holy name that we can’t even utter it.
The second half, and the remaining three requests, are in relation to Christian disciples. There is the need for us to be fed, to forgive and, finally, not to be led into temptation but delivered from evil. These three requests acknowledge our human needs as the prayer concludes.
As you would be aware, we are encouraged during Lent to be more prayerful and be more mindful of our prayer life with God and so we have the gift, as we begin our Lenten journey, of the prayer Jesus gave us, the ‘Our Father’.
As we prayer this prayer during Lent, and other times, Fr Paul reminds us to be aware of that invocation, the beginning three requests for God and three requests for ourselves.