Scripture Readings: Genesis 18:20-32; Letter of Saint Paul to the Colossians 2:12-14; Gospel According to Saint Luke 11:1-13

This Sunday’s Gospel passage is a collection of the Lord’s sayings on prayer. Jesus gives the teaching in the context of his own prayer. We are told, “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he had finished, one of his disciples asked him, “Lord, teach us to pray.”

This is an understandable request, as all who seek God usually want to know better how to pray and who better to ask than the Lord Jesus himself, true God and true man!

At the time of Jesus different religious groups, such the Pharisees, the Essenes and the disciples of John the Baptist, had their own practices and methods of prayer. What they all had in common was the fact of praying to God, though in different ways. Each group recognized themselves as a community and their practices of prayer were a bond of unity and a mark of identification.

Understandably, then, the followers of Jesus also desired to know how to pray and have the same bonds as other religious adherents. Ultimately the Lord’s Prayer, as we now call it, given to his disciples by Jesus, was a bond of unity and a particular mark of identification of his followers, what could be called “the community of salvation in Jesus Christ.”

While the form of the Lord’s Prayer given to us by the Gospel writer, the Evangelist Luke, varies from what we know hopefully by heart, the text from the Gospel according to Saint Matthew, the basic format of the Lord’s Prayer is the same in both Saint Luke and Saint Matthew.

Not realizing how near she was to death, I was not present when my mom died in a Portland, Oregon, hospital, in June of 2010. My younger brother told that mom’s passing was fairly swift and that a chaplain was praying the Lord’s Prayer with mom when she died, a prayer she knew very well and had taught her four children. This was a great comfort to me that the Lord’s Prayer was in mom’s heart and on her lips when she passed into God’s hands.

A review of the content of Saint Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer follows. We can divide the prayer into three parts: the address to “Father”; the two “Thou” or “You” petitions and finally, the three “We” petitions.


In the language of Jesus, Aramaic, the address of the prayer would have been, “Abba,” which can also be translated as “dear Father” or “my father.” Yes, included too is the more colloquial, “Daddy,” which always strikes me as a little too informal when addressing God. Nonetheless Jesus praying to God as Abba expressed the deepest reality of the relationship of Jesus the Son to God the Father, Creator of all.

In teaching his disciples to pray using the name Abba, Jesus united his disciples to himself. How? In Christ we are God’s sons and daughters, as Saint Paul says, “For in Christ Jesus you are all children of God” (Galatians 3:26). As a result, we can address God as Abba, Our Father. In the early Church only fully-initiated believers were allowed to say “Our Father,” as an indication of adherence and allegiance to Christ and the Church.


Jesus went on to teach his followers: “Hollowed (or sanctified) be thy (or your) name, Thy (or Your) kingdom come.” These two petitions express the core of Jesus’ life and mission on earth. We are to pray that the heavenly Father may bring to completion Jesus’ work by our cooperation with God’s saving action in people’s lives.

Implied in our praying thus is the desire that all people might respond in gratitude and love to God, allowing God to transform them. Of course, we should also desire to be among those transformed or sanctified by God. A Saint Paul expresses it: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification” (First Thessalonians 4:3).

“Thy (or Your) kingdom come.” When we pray the Lord’s Prayer we are not primarily asking that the Church may spread throughout the world, or even that we may be filled with God’s life, as good as both of these notions are. Rather, we pray that the total and definitive reign or kingdom of God may be established once and for all. This deep desire of the early Church is expressed in the beautiful Aramaic phrase, “Maranatha,” that is, “Come, Lord Jesus” (First Corinthians 16:22). This ardent prayer is a plea that God establish the Kingdom of Heaven in its totality by everything and everyone being taken up in God’s loving embrace for all eternity.

In the first petitions of the Our Father we call on God as Abba, entering as sons and daughters into the vision and the deepest aspirations and mission of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, we enter into God’s life as we strive to do God’s will to further the establishment of the definitive Reign or Kingdom of God, existing on earth and in heaven.


“Give us each day our daily bread,” Jesus taught his disciples to pray. Bread is used as a symbol for all our human needs. This is a matter of healthy dependence and consequent need, by saying in a sense, “keep on giving,” and “each day.” We ask God that the Kingdom truly touches our personal and communal lives and realized today, but also into the future as we walk toward God’s House.

“Forgive us our sins for we too forgive all who do us wrong,” Jesus goes on to teach us to pray. Expressed another way, God’s forgiveness demands that we continue day after day to forgive others. In a sense God’s forgiveness is conditioned by our readiness to forgive our debtors. This is rarely easy, but clearly a call from Christ to do today and always and with everyone.

Finally, Jesus asks his followers to pray to God with the phrase, “And subject us not to the trial.” Here we are not praying that God never test us, nor allow us to be tested, nor to keep us from trials. Rather, we pray that we will be fortified, that is strengthened, when assailed by difficulties and come out undefeated.

We pray in the final petition that we do not fall into the power of sin and evil which is around us. This petition has a double dimension, one touching on our everyday life here and now, and the other signifying the final moment of our life, the great test. We pray that we may not fall away at that moment. In the case of my mom, I truly believe she “let go and let God,” at the moment of her death, praying the Lord’s Prayer. I wish to do likewise.

Jesus then goes on in the Gospel this Sunday to give a little parable about confidence in prayer, almost as a finale or encouragement to pray without fear. Jesus implies that God on no occasion will fail to respond to our prayer. God will open the door and God will give, Jesus wishes to assure his disciples. In this good news there is cause for great rejoicing.

The unlimited love and concern of God who is “Abba” should be a great consolation to our souls every day. We should daily and even more often in the course of the day, life up the prayer the Lord has given us, the Our Father, with great respect toward God but also great familiarity. That is the tenor and the beauty of the prayer that Jesus taught his first followers and us as well.

Abbot Christian Leisy, OSB