Teach Us to Pray

Teach us to pray

During Lent we have a number of catechumens preparing for baptism at the Easter Vigil in the different parishes in southern Illinois. As I write this column we have just finished the Rite of Election at the Cathedral of St Peter where I welcomed those catechumens and prayed for them as they enter their final weeks of preparation for Baptism, Confirmation and the Holy Eucharist.

In the process of preparing the catechumens for baptism, they will be presented and receive the Lord’s Prayer. This is a very old custom in the rites of the Church. Jesus himself gave this prayer to his followers, in response to their request: “teach us to pray as John taught his disciples”.

Do you remember who taught you the Lord’s Prayer? How old were you when you first learned it? I don’t think I can calculate how many times I have said the “Our Father”, but a day doesn’t go by without me saying the prayer a couple of times between rising and going to bed.

I have prayed the Our Father at Mass, on a plane, with inmates in a jail, with patients and families in the hospital, during confession, at the cemetery, and many other places. I imagine many of our readers can also think of ordinary and extraordinarily times when we have turned to God the Father and lifted up our hearts using the words of this prayer.

May I suggest a spiritual practice for Lent? Think about some of the times you have said the Lord’s Prayer and the people who were with you at that moment of prayer. As I write this column I think of my mom, who taught me the Our Father and the many times I prayed these words with her or for her. During Lent, I am lifting up a prayer of gratitude for the way my mom and I shared in praying the Lord’s Prayer. Parents and grandparents reading this column, think of the importance of praying with your children and grandchildren. In Lent, find more opportunities to pray the Our Father for your family and with your family.

The different phrases of the prayer may resonate within our souls at different times in our lives. Right now the phrase that resonates with me is “thy kingdom come.” How about for you?  My point is that the Lord’s Prayer is such a gift from Christ that I hope we take some time in Lent to come to a deeper appreciation of the prayer and the moments in our journey of faith when the prayer has meant so much.

Please remember in your prayers our catechumens who will be learning the prayers in the coming weeks as they prepare for baptism. May the Lord remember us all in his kingdom and teach us to pray.

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Bishop Michael McGovern