If you have read any of my posts you will notice a theme: meditation on the Holy Scripture. Personal and Liturgical prayer also play a big role in my writing. The following series of meditations will combine all of these themes.
Let us ruminate on the Lord’s Prayer. Let us ponder together the depth of mystical insight contained within the simple prayer that begins with “Our Father…”
First we shall observe the scriptural context of the prayer as it occurs in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter six:
“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
First note the interior character of prayer. Christ is bidding us to pray quietly inside our room with doors shut. For commentary on this we need look no further that St. Gregory Palamas:
“The room of the soul is the body; our doors are the five bodily senses. The soul enters its room when the mind does not wander here and there, roaming among the things and affairs of the world, but stays within, in our heart. Our senses become closed and remain closed when we do not let them be passionately attached to external sensory things and in this way our mind remains free from every worldly attachment, and by secret mental prayer unites with God its Father.
God who sees all secret things sees mental prayer and rewards it openly with great gifts. For that prayer is true and perfect which fills the soul with divine grace and spiritual gifts.”
(St. Gregory Palamas, 14th c., How All Christians Must Pray Without Ceasing)
Can we also understand Christ’s word as applying to the prayer of the Ekklesia or Assembly? When we gather as Church are we not going into the Holy place – the place set apart from the world? There is certainly a corporate aspect to the Lord’s Prayer. It begins “Our Father.” The “our” is First person plural. We gather together as the Body of Christ and Pray to the Father.
“And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this: Our Father who art in heaven…” (Matthew 6)
The second thought for our meditation is this: remember that the Lord’s Prayer is simple and clear. We need not be excessive in our words, but we must pray. I’ve often struggled with the concept of praying “for” things. I would think: “why should I pray for things when the Father knows what I need before I ask?” Christ seems to be addressing this here by reminding us that prayer is a communication with God. Let it not be empty “hollering” at the Father, but a quiet simple “turning” to Him. A reminder to us of who God is and who we are in relation to Him. In Christ the Son and the Holy Spirit He is our Heavenly Father.