Prayer

Pope: The 'Our Father' is the cornerstone of our prayer life

14/12/2016 11:22 am

Pope Francis at the vigil before the October 2015 Ordinary Synod on the Family

Pope Francis says that prayers are not magic words for Christians and when we pray the ‘Our Father’ we can feel God looking at us and that the Lord's Prayer should be the cornerstone of our prayer life. His words came in June 2016 when celebrating Mass in the chapel of the Santa Marta residence.

Jesus always turned to the Father in the most challenging moments

Taking his inspiration from the gospel reading where Jesus teaches his disciples to pray the 'Our Father', the Pope’s homily was a reflection on the value and meaning of prayer in the life of a Christian. He noted that Jesus always used the word 'Father' in the most important or challenging moments of his life, saying our Father "knows the things we need, before we even ask Him." He is a Father who listens to us in secret just like Jesus advised us to pray in secret.

"It’s through this Father that we receive our identity as children. And when I say 'Father' this goes right to the roots of my identity - my Christian identity is to be his child and this is a grace of the Holy Spirit.

"Nobody can say 'Father' without the grace of the Spirit. 'Father' is the word that Jesus used in the most important moments - when he was full of joy, or emotion: 'Father, I bless you for revealing these things to little children.' Or weeping, in front of the tomb of his friend Lazarus: 'Father, I thank you for hearing my prayer,' or else at the end, in the final moments of his life, right at the very end."

Pope Francis went on to stress how the word 'Father' was the one most used by Jesus in the most important or challenging moments of his life. He warned that "Without considering ourselves as his children, without saying 'Father', our prayer is a pagan one, it’s just a prayer of words."

Praying the 'Our Father' is our cornerstone

In the same way, the Pope stressed that the 'Our Father' prayer is the cornerstone of our prayer life. If we are not able to begin our prayer with this word, he warned, "our prayer will go nowhere."

"It's about feeling our Father looking at us, feeling that this word 'Father' is not a waste of time like the words in the prayers of pagans: it's a call to Him who gave me my identity as his child. This is the dimension of Christian prayer – 'Father' and we can pray to all the Saints, the Angels, we can go on processions, pilgrimages... all of this is wonderful but we must always begin (our prayers) with 'Father' and be aware that we are his children and that we have a Father who loves us and who knows all our needs. This is that dimension."

Turning next to the part of the 'Our Father' prayer where Jesus refers to forgiving those who "trespass against us" just as God forgives us, Pope Francis explains that this prayer conveys the sense of us being brothers (and sisters) and part of one family. Rather than behaving like Cain who hated his own brother, he said, it’s important for us to forgive, to forget offences against us, that healthy attitude of saying "let’s forget this" and not harbour feelings of rancour, resentment or a desire for revenge.

In conclusion, Pope Francis said the best prayer we can say is to pray to our God to forgive everybody and forget their sins.

"It’s good for us to sometimes examine our own consciences on this point. For me, is God my Father? Do I feel that He is my Father? And if I don’t feel that, let me ask the Holy Spirit to teach me to feel that way. And am I able to forget offences, to forgive, to let go of it, and if not, let us ask the Father: 'these people too are your children, they did something horrible to me... can you help me to forgive them?' Let us carry out this examination of our consciences and it will do us a lot of good, good, good. 'Father' and 'our': give us our identity as his children and give us a family to journey with during our lives."

First published by Vatican Radio on 16 June 2016.