Today’s gospel from Matthew (6:7-15) is the familiar passage wherein Jesus teaches his listeners how to pray – for many of us the most familiar of our common Christian prayers, the Lord’s Prayer. My reflection this morning came from the initial instruction of Jesus that began the chosen text. The translation says, “In praying, do not babble like the pagans who think they will be heard because of their many words…” I smiled at the descriptive verb and then thought that when we say that prayer in common, babbling is sometimes exactly what it sounds like. If someone were to yell “STOP” at a certain phrase, shocking everyone into consciousness, I wonder if I would always know what comes next.
Perhaps I exaggerate but I have often suggested, as it has been suggested to me, to use the Lord’s Prayer as a personal meditation or an examination of conscience, not just rattling off the long-ago memorized phrases but spending time with each one, allowing it to seep into my heart and seeing what arises as question or reflection on what I hear. As a few examples:
“Our Father” – Whom do I include in my family as related through the parentage of God? Why are some excluded?
“Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven” – How do I perceive ‘God’s reign’ and how am I contributing to that reality now?
“Give us this day our daily bread” – Who is hungry and for what? Can I help?
Perhaps today I might do this practice differently, taking a phrase each hour and seeing what happens. I wonder how far I will get before the activities of the day take over and I forget my intention. No matter…I trust God will stay listening all day and even into my tomorrows.