Nobody says everything in the Bible has to be deadly serious. This first reading can surely be seen as comedy. First we have the image of God not knowing what is going on and having to go and find out. Then this God presents himself as a tough ruler, if not a violent tyrant, threatening mass slaughter. But he turns out to be a ‘softie’ extremely easy to get around, caving in at the first tentative plea. This is not ‘mercy’, it is weakness. Then we have Abraham ticking God of for behaviour unworthy of Godhead and telling God what he ought to do. In our intercessory prayer, don’t we often do something similar, though not so blatantly and in less strong language? . We can, however, adopt some qualities of Abraham’s prayer: humility, trust in God, perseverance, and genuine love and concern for others.
In the gospel reading, Jesus is at prayer. Have you ever tried to imagine what it must have been like to be present and see Jesus in prayer? To share in prayer with him? The intimate group of disciples must have prayed together. No wonder they asked him to teach them.
The prayer he gives us is quite extraordinary. First of all, it is in the simplest language possible. This is specially evident in English, which has ‘layers’ of language: Anglo-Saxon, Norman French, Latin/Greek. The Lord’s Prayer is entirely in basic Anglo-Saxon, the language of the heart and of the things of ordinary everyday life. The brief prayer, even in Luke’s short version, is completely comprehensive, saying everything we would need to say in prayer. First we honour God in God’s own self and for God’s own sake. Then we make our own the central desire of the heart of Jesus, the promotion of the kingdom of God. Then there’s that wonderful prayer for all our needs, not our wants, for now, not the future. It is powerful in its concreteness and utter simplicity. It is pure poetry. Then our pledge of forgiveness brings in the essential element of our relationship with others. As far as vocal prayer goes, the Lord’s prayer, said consciously and wholeheartedly, is the perfect prayer.
Sr Genevieve Mooney O.P.