THIS IS HOW YOU ARE TO PRAY
“Our Father…” – Mt. 6:9-15
Growing up, I used to resent the Lord’s Prayer.
We used to sing the prayer during high school Masses. Picture hundreds of Catholic school girls in matching uniforms, all swaying in unison and terribly off-key. It was a cheesy musical version that I’d never dare to repeat.
Even praying with my family during Rosary nights felt tedious, as if the Our Father was just a few phrases too long. And what did “Give us this day our daily bread” actually mean, anyway? How am I supposed to forgive those who trespass, who betray, me?
It was like I could not connect personally to this prayer, said by millions around the world.
Of course, Jesus knew—doesn’t He always? The last several times I’d been to Confession, my penance has always been the Lord’s Prayer. The priest would look me in the eye and say simply, “One Our Father.” One kind priest even told me to pray it “very slowly,” writing it my journal and reflecting word by word.
It was as if the Lord’s Prayer had been following me—like it was meant to be my closest prayer. After having prayed it for several penances, I began to see the words that Jesus Himself taught us, His disciples, in a new light.
“Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him,” Jesus told the disciples. “This is how you are to pray.”
When I was moving to New York City two years ago, I remember whispering the ‘Our Father’ as the plane slowly ascended, miles and miles ahead into my new life.
“Thy Kingdom come,” I prayed silently, nervously. “Thy will be done.”
It was a mantra I began to repeat over and over, especially recently, as I have dealt with bouts of anxiety over the last few weeks before Lent.
Sometimes it will creep up suddenly in the dead of night, when I can’t sleep and am terribly missing home. Sometimes it happens on a crowded subway commute, feeling inexplicably alone in a city of millions.
Most recently, it happened while on a run during the first week of Lent. I needed to breathe, to feel sunlight on my face, and I just found myself running and running along the waterfront, keeping steady with my feet slapping against the cool pavement. I must have gone 5 miles—running and walking, exploring the different parks and neighborhoods I came across—before the anxiety began to subside. I felt my breath cooling, my feet slowing down.
I realized that I could turn this exercise into a mindful prayer — and what first came in my head was none other than the Our Father.
At first it was the usual, simple-but-powerful mantra, “Thy will be done,” repeated over and over as I continued to run. Eventually I extended it to the whole prayer, breathing it all the way to the end of my route.
Sometimes, all I can do is trust in my Father, who art in Heaven, whose will and plans for me are better than I could ever dream. All I can do is trust that He is moving me forward, step by step.
As my feet and I stopped to admire the New York City skyline waiting ahead, I realized that this was what Jesus meant when He said, “This is how you are to pray.”
How is God inviting me to pray in my daily life this Lenten season?