"Have confidence in prayer. It is the unfailing power which God has given us. By means of it you will obtain the salvation of the dear souls whom God has given you and all your loved ones." Ask and you shall receive," Our Lord said. Be yourself with the good Lord."--Saint Peter Julian Eymard
Gospel Text: (MT 6:7-15)
Jesus said to his disciples:
“In praying, do not babble like the pagans,
who think that they will be heard because of their many words.
Do not be like them.
Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
“This is how you are to pray:
‘Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be 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.’
“If you forgive others their transgressions,
your heavenly Father will forgive you.
But if you do not forgive others,
neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.”
Have you ever seen a toddler playing with a shape sorter? It’s a common toy with blocks shaped like triangles, squares, or circles and corresponding holes for the blocks to pass through. It is a very simple idea, and yet until the child has practiced and developed coordination, it can be difficult for him to align the shapes correctly to fit through the holes.
Sometimes prayer can feel like trying to fit the right block into the right hole. How am I supposed to pray? What should I pray for? What is successful prayer? Jesus, teaching his disciples about prayer, distilled it down to its essential elements: Keep it simple. Practice. Align yourself correctly. The Lord’s Prayer, so familiar, is not just a beautiful prayer; it models for us what prayer should be.
For example, more words don’t always translate to better prayer. In fact, the less we speak in prayer, the more time we have to listen to God. Sometimes our words—even though well-intentioned and devout—can drown out the words that God wants to speak to us.
It’s in quiet and simplicity that we will be able to line ourselves up with God’s will and his thoughts. We can worship him (“hallowed be thy name”) and submit ourselves to what he wants (“thy will be done”). Then we can trust him to provide for us as we pray each day (“give us this day our daily bread”) and realign ourselves with him and others (“forgive us … as we forgive”). As we give the consistent effort in prayer to shift our wants and needs and viewpoint, our Father will give us a deeper sense of what is on his heart and what is in his mind.
That’s the key to “successful” prayer! As we spend time with God, submit ourselves to him, and listen to him, he makes us more like him. Our worship gains more depth. Our intercession expresses a greater trust in him. Our repentance changes us. Like a child developing his skills, we find ourselves better able to fit the right block into the right hole—and growing closer to the Lord in the process!