“Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” Thomas Merton, commenting somewhere on our tendency to multiply words of prayer and devotion, says that God does not need our words, but we need them.
Living in this twenty-first century of Catholicism, we have inherited a rich tradition of prayer, especially prayers penned by saints. The Canticle of the Sun by Francis of Assisi has become a common hymn, awakening our senses to the beauty of the world around us. The Prayer of Abandonment of Charles de Foucauld has formed whole generations of Little Brothers and Little Sisters of Jesus and their associates with a spirit of openness to God in any event. Twenty-three year old St. Aloysius Gonzaga, who died assisting plague victims in Rome in 1591, wrote a prayer commending himself to the tender care of Mary. Very often these prayers continue to nurture us because of their universal themes.
Today, Jesus says “the Father knows what you need before you ask him.” But then he gives them and us the prayer we need to hear as we say it to the Father. We all have our favorite prayers which touch our lives in particular ways. But this prayer has spiritually formed all the saints who gave us their prayers. The Lord’s Prayer remains for us the foundational prayer which schools us in attitudes and actions that are meant to characterize a faithful disciple of Christ.
Jesus wants us to sense our bond with him as we confidently pray the Our Father. We express our desire that God’s reign of values come to our earth. We recognize our need for daily sustenance in body and spirit. We are reminded how important forgiveness is in all our relationships. Finally we ask the Lord’s providential care as we face evil in our own day.
When it comes to prayer, we need not find “the right words” since the Father knows what we need already. Whatever words come from our heart are the right words for us.
(Father Paul Zilonka, C.P. is a Member of the Passionist Preaching Team of St. Paul of the Cross Province).