You may well have a feeling that borders on boredom: "here we go again, dealing with this particular gospel event: "Jesus teach us how to pray." So many time we've heard this request recounted by both Matthew and Luke. Nevertheless, as many times as I have written or spoken about Luke 11:1-13, there has been at least one person who has asked or said, "Prayer is so difficult for me." Translate that as 'Can you help me learn how to pray?"
Isn't it interesting that the apostles apparently never asked Jesus to teach them how to prepare effective homilies, how to work miracles, how to construct meaningful parables. Nowhere is that kind of request recorded in the gospels. Yet there is this one question recalled by the two writers of the life of Jesus.
Even if you are a person who prays often or regularly, there are moments when you, like myself, may question how well we pray. But all of us, I believe, must come to the belief that prayer can be taught. How many are the moments in personal prayer when I have uttered "teach me, you saints of God, how you have learned prayer, meditation or contemplation." Yet, after so many years, I continue to find prayer an intriguing experience.
What we have learned from the saints is this: these holy mean, women and even young adults, most regularly set aside some time for God each day. And, those who have shared their prayer experiences in their writings or talks hint that the "Our Father" was often times the beginning prayer. Yet, we know, there are days when those simple words are like the springing one get from a diving board that lets us spend a few seconds in deep waters. At other times these simple words don't help me go deeper than the shallow end of the pool. It's then that you might realize that prayer is something that need quiet and calm as well as repetition.
There was a privileged moment for a 911 operator: a caller told her that he was on a plane destined for destruction. Todd Beamer was on a plane destined for destruction. Along with other passengers, were several terrorists determined to make United Flight 93 a suicide venture. Todd, in closing his conversation with Lisa Jackson, the operator, asked her to call his family with his words of love and farewell. Then Todd asked Lisa to pray the Our Father with him.
An operator and a man about to die without loved ones at hand, were connected by the power of prayer, simply saying the words of Jesus' prayer -- the prayer he taught his disciples; the prayer so many of us learned as one of our first "memorization exercises" in our young lives; the prayer so many Christians recall in their final hours. These are words to live our lives by and to carry on our lips to our meeting with God in his Kingdom.
This prayer, you might say, is Prayer 101, Prayer 102, Prayer 103, and on and on. Each time we allow the words Jesus taught us to become a part of our prayer, we learn the purpose of any prayer: to come to know ourselves and what God wants us to be.
Let me end, asking you to join with me now, saying these words one more time:
Our Father, who art in heaven
hallowed by thy name;
thy kingdom come, thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those
who trespass against us
and lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil. Amen.