I think it’s good to have this Gospel reading about the Lord’s prayer in today’s Liturgy of the Word. So often with familiar prayers like this, we can say them so automatically that we can get to the end of the prayer without the prayer ever registering in our minds. So when we have the reading about the Lord teaching his disciples to pray, it is good for us disciples to pay attention, would that our prayer would be revitalized and God’s grace increased.
The part of the prayer that leapt out at me today as I was reflecting on the Gospel was “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” I have been reading a reflection on the Lord’s Prayer by Saint Cyprian, and this part of the prayer was the part I read about yesterday. As Cyprian points out, this line doesn’t mean that we are praying for God to accomplish his will. He can do that quite well without our asking for it, thank you. The point of this part of the prayer is that God’s will would be accomplished in us. And again, God can certainly do that, but it’s up to us not to throw up the obstacles.
There’s a catechetical skit about the Lord’s prayer that goes back to the 70s. In a humorous way, it portrays God conversing with someone praying the Lord’s prayer. Here’s the part that deals with this section of the prayer:
God: Do you really mean that?
Prayer: Sure, why not?
God: What are you doing about it?
Prayer: Doing? Nothing, I guess. I just think it would be kind of neat if you got control of everything down here like you have up there.”
God: Have I got control of you?
Prayer: Well, I go to church.
God: That isn’t what I asked you. What about your temper? You’ve really got a problem there, you know. And then there’s the way you spend your money – all on yourself. And what about the kinds of books you read and what you watch on TV?
Prayer: Stop picking on me! I’m just as good as the rest of those people at church.
God: Excuse me. I thought you were praying for my will to be done. If that is to happen, it will have to start with the ones who are praying for it. Like you, for example.
Prayer: Oh, all right. I guess I do have some hang-ups. Now that you mention it, I could probably name some others.
God: So could I.
Prayer: I haven’t thought about it very much until now, but I’d really like to cut out some of those things. I would like to, you know, be really free.
God: Good. Now we’re getting somewhere. We’ll work together, you and I…
Saint Cyprian sums up what it means for God’s will to be done in us: “To be unable to do a wrong, and to be able to bear a wrong when it is done; to keep peace with the brethren; to love God with all one’s heart; to love God because he is a Father but fear him because he is God; to prefer nothing whatever to Christ because he preferred nothing to us; to adhere inseparably to his love; to stand faithfully and bravely by his cross; when there is any conflict over his name and honor, to exhibit in discourse that steadfastness in which we proclaim him; in torture, to show that confidence in which we unite; in death, that patience in which we are crowned – this is what it means to want to be co-heirs with Christ, this is what it means to do what God commands, this is what it is to fulfill the will of the Father.”
What is God trying to do in us these days? As we pray the Lord’s prayer later in this Mass, let’s let it be a true prayer that God’s kingdom would be manifest among us as we truly strive to let God’s will happen in our lives.