Our prayers are efficacious not because of their forms. They are helpful and facilitative, but because of the goodness and generosity of the Father, prayer is rooted in the kindness and generosity of God.
There was a time during the height of the popularity of the Cursillo
Movement when every Cursillista addressed Jesus as Brother Jess. He is not considered as a brother but can be called by his nickname. It gives one a weird feeling as calling Jesus in a very casual, intimate manner borders on disrespect and too much familiarity. It gives one an eerie feeling. It was most natural for us to realize and stress the gap and distance between God and us, that we feel unworthy to even pronounce the name of God. In fact there are still many, especially the old, the pious and the devout today, who when speaking about God won’t pronounce his name, simply point upwards to the sky and say it is up to someone up there.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus was requested by his disciples to teach them how to pray. They were expecting that Jesus would give them some kind of effective formula that would give them assurance that they will be heard by the Father. Instead, Jesus taught them the Our Father. For the Jews, it was bordering on the scandalous, that they cannot call God their father like someone very close and intimate with them. They have always related to Him as a transcendent deity so far removed from our earthly reality. God is totally unlike us. Any insinuation of anthropomorphism on God is considered blasphemous and sacrilegious. In Jesus he has bridged the immense gap between the transcendent realities and earthly ones.
Now God is our Father. He is so near, the head of our household, so intimate that we are his children. Matthew even used the Aramaic word Abba, which is the informal address, akin to the youth’s lingo as Erpat. Try visualizing calling God as Erpat! How does it grab you? It’s edgy. Jesus is saying what is important in prayer is not the methods and strategies but first of all our relationship with God whom we are calling upon. God is our Father, we are his children. What is crucial in prayer is our filial trust and confidence.
When we address God as our father, we are invited to pray with the
same familiarity that Jesus showed when he prayed. The fact that the
one to whom we pray can be thought of in such an intimate way, markedly affects the confidence with which we offer our prayer. God is not some withdrawn figure, unmoved by our pleas. He is not the impersonal deity who is arbitrary and capricious. He is not even a domineering figure up there watching us from a distance, ready to pounce on us whenever we fail. He is a Father, generous and kind.
We need to pray. Its indispensability emerges from the fact that it puts us in touch with the incredible generosity of God. “Successful prayer” depends not on the methods and strategies (what day of the week and what time of the day we pray or the posture we assume.) In this age of charismatic renewal of our prayers, other forms have evolved. There is more singing, dancing, clapping, amid other body movements.
Most prayers are spontaneous, scripture based and are prayers of worship. It is a laudable development. On the other hand we have no right to look down on others who are still comfortable in the traditional forms, formulas, novenas, rosaries, saint-inspired. What is important is regularity, persistence and trust. Our prayers are efficacious not because of their forms. They are helpful and facilitative, but because of the goodness and generosity of the Father, prayer is rooted in the kindness and generosity of God.
published on July 28, 2013 Parish Bulletin