In today’s Gospel, Jesus’ disciples see him praying and ask, “Lord, teach us to pray.”
Know that God is your Father, pray for his kingdom to come, Jesus responds, ask for your daily bread, forgive one another.
“Lord, teach us to pray,” they asked. I have often been struck by the fact that to this day we repeat the exact words he suggested almost every time we pray. What beautiful words they are! “Our Father, who art in heaven . . .”
“Mom, teach us to pray,” my kids look to me, especially when the harsh realities of life hit them. I remember sitting with my second daughter, five or six years old, as heartbreaking footage from a war zone aired during the nightly news. She looked at me, wide eyed, “Why are there children in that war?” I explained that their homes had been attacked. “Could that happen to us?” she asked tearfully. “Well,” I hesitated, “We should always pray for peace, and we should thank God every day for wars not attacking our home.” That night at prayer time she prayed, “Thank you, Jesus, for my family and friends, and for wars not attacking our home.” For years she prayed this prayer every single day. When she would recite her oddly worded prayer, I would regret that I instructed her to give thanks in those awkward words. Had I known I was teaching her a prayer she would repeat hundreds of times, I would have thought about the sentence structure more carefully! How much more beautiful is “thy kingdom come, thy will be done.” And yet there was something so precious about her heartfelt cry for peace.
“Teach us to pray,” all of our hearts cry out, for all of our lives. Twenty-seven years into parenting, I still fumble to teach the basics. In spite of my limitations, I am the one to answer this little heart-cry in my children. Whether it is giving them words for the desires of their hearts, or letting them catch us on our knees, we are the ones who disciple their lives of prayer.
“Teach us,” and I know that kids learn by watching. While visiting a missionary friend in Peru a few weeks ago, her sweet pajama clad six-year-old crawled on my lap one morning and asked if I prayed every day. “Because,” she said, “my mom has really long prayer times.” What a gift, I thought, that she saw her mom giving lots of time every day to be with Jesus. I could tell by the cheerful way that she said it, that she would desire to spend time with the Lord, too.
“Lord, teach me to pray.” I still struggle to model faithful daily prayer, and I still pray awkwardly. And yet, my sweet Jesus has taught me, showing me the gift that it is to cry out to our Father on our knees, laying bare the desires of our hearts, relying on God for our daily bread. I breathe deeply, and relish the words, “Our Father . . .”