Pope Francis thinks that if Christ hadn’t taught us the Our Father, none of us would have ever dared to pray such a prayer.
The pope said this today as he took up the Our Father in his second Wednesday audience catechesis session on the topic.
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Francis noted how the Our Father has seven petitions, a biblical number that refers to completeness, as in the seven days of creation with the sabbath.
“If Christ had not suggested it, probably none of us – or rather, none of the most famous theologians – would have dared to pray to God in this manner,” the pope said, affirming that Jesus invites the disciples to address God with confidence.
He does not say to address God as “Almighty,” “Most High,” “You, Who are so distant from us, I am a wretch”: No, He does not say this, but simply, “Father,” with simplicity, as children address their dad. And this word “Father” expresses confidence and filial trust.
The pope reflected on how the Our Father is rooted in our concrete needs, such as daily food, a petition that shows “that faith is not a decorative [addition], detached from life, which intervenes only when all other needs have been satisfied. If anything, prayer begins with life itself.”
Prayer – Jesus teaches us – does not begin in human existence once the stomach is full: rather, it is there wherever there is a man, any man who is hungry, who weeps, who struggles, who suffers and asks himself why. Our first prayer, in a certain sense, was the cry that accompanied our first breath. In that newborn cry the destiny of all our life is announced: our continual hunger, our continual thirst, our search for happiness.
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Francis explained that Jesus doesn’t want to “extinguish the human” with prayer. “He does not want us to dampen our demands and requests, learning to bear everything. Instead He wants every suffering, every disquiet, to reach towards heaven and to become dialogue.”
Prayer isn’t only petitioning, Francis went on; we also feel the need to praise God. “The first Christians even felt the need to add a doxology to the text of the Lord’s Prayer: ‘For yours is the power and the glory for ever,’ (Didaché, 8: 2).”
But, “prayer of demand” is authentic, the Holy Father continued. “It is an act of faith in God Who is the Father, Who is good, Who is almighty. It is an act of faith in me, I who am small, a sinner, in need. And this is why prayer, to ask something, is very noble.”
The pope said that we should speak to God without fear, calling him Father as a child does, but also willing to question him in difficulty: “But Lord, what have You done to me?”
We can tell Him everything, even the things that in our life remain distorted and incomprehensible. And He has promised us that He would be with us for ever, until the last days we will spend on this earth. Let us pray the Lord’s Prayer, starting in this way, simply: “Father,” “papa.” And He understands us and loves us so much.
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