Q: Archbishop J, How do we pray? Pt 2
God is daddy! A loving father! This as we have seen is the foundation of Christian prayer. If it is love, it is real. It is about relationship and is reciprocal in nature.
It means abandoning ourselves into the arms of a loving daddy who lovingly receives us. So prayer could never be a one-way street. It is not saying prayers—our activity. It is an act of loving—mutuality. This means we bring everything to prayer: the good, the bad and the ugly. This also means that God receives all. Bring all to God.
(a) Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name;
(b) thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
In the first part of the Our Father, (a) & (b) above, note the place of ‘heaven’ in the first and fifth lines. Our daddy is in heaven. And yet, God is daddy—intimate, loving, kind and caring. This is a paradox.
Daddy is in heaven—Other, spiritual, on a whole different level. The prayer evokes the truth: when we pray we communicate with heaven, our true home. It is a long distance call. But this God is with us and in us; He makes His home in us (local call). Paradox!
In a homily on the ‘Our Father’, St John Chrysostom writes, “When He says, ‘… in heaven,’ He says this not to limit God to the heavens, but to withdraw from the earth the one who is in prayer, and to fix him in the high places and in the dwellings above.”
The reference to Heaven is not to stress distance but to invite us to touch and dwell in our true home, if only for a short while. This Heaven is not a geographical place but a dimension of reality that we cannot see until we are born from above (Jn 3:3).
This stanza of the prayer says our daddy is the one who created the heavens, the earth and all there is within. Jesus ensures we do not domesticate God but rather that God raises us to the “high places and the dwellings above”.
We live in such a materialistic world that it is easy to reduce God to our level. Christian prayer begins by raising us to God’s level so we can touch what is true and beautiful and noble.
Take a look at the book of Revelations, chapters 4 and 5. It paints a picture of heaven: The throne of the one of great age, the four creatures (symbol of the evangelists) singing, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is and is to come”.
This is awe and reverence and otherness and worship. Daddy is so other that we should be on our knees, not because he wants it, but because “our God is an awesome God”. Prayer takes us to a very different level and dimension of reality and we know it when we touch it. That is why prayer is both very attractive and repelling at the same time.
To touch the divine is both a deep attraction and at the same time a deep wound. Our ego cannot continue with its deception in the face of the really real—daddy who is in heaven. We try to bring everything to our level; prayer takes us to a very different level or dimension, to heaven our true home.
Hallowed be thy name
This is best translated—“May your name be made holy”, so set apart and consecrated, wholly other. Is the petition asking that God make His name known so people reverence it as holy here and now? Or is the petition about making daddy’s name holy in our lives by how we live as individuals and society?
Here we see the paradoxical nature of prayer. It is both God’s action and our action. By praying, we invite God to reveal the truth: Daddy is holy, other! As children, we are called to be holy, other!
We are called to love unconditionally, working tirelessly for justice and peace, to befriend and defend the poor. Prayer is not divorced from action; it is primarily about becoming a child of God and then living like God’s child.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven
Jesus always preached the Kingdom of God. It is another way of speaking of Heaven. It is about perfect harmony or union with God, self, neighbour and creation. It is that dimension of reality that we touch imperfectly on earth when we encounter the risen Christ, surrender all to God and are reconciled with Him, self, neighbour and creation.
It is like moving from a 3D world to a 4D world: a new dimension opens up that changes the whole way we experience reality. For those with the dimension of faith, the world is still the same but everything is so different.
We see harmony where others see difference. We see God breaking into every human experience whereas others see matter and atoms colliding. We see a plan unfolding with love as the logic and motor of history. Others see power, sex or money as the motor of history.
The Kingdom is here and now for everyone but not everyone has touched and experienced this dimension of reality. Yet, the whole world is pregnant with God who is breaking through our resistance through seduction, to love us into being fully alive.
God is a consummate lover. The Kingdom of God is about love. In the ‘Our Father’ we pray that this unstoppable love breaks through all our human resistance, so we live in love and understand that we all live in God.
Love needs freedom: freedom to respond or reject—to accept the invitation of this consummate lover that is God. So we pray that God’s will be done, that we surrender to the desire and purpose God has for us. With God, His will is the manifestation of His love, for God is Love.
God’s will is done perfectly in Heaven. For those who experience living in the dimension of the Resurrection, the unstoppable love of God (heaven), the surrender to God’s will is the surrender to becoming the best version of themselves.
For those who live only on earth without touching heaven, God’s will seems like a burden and an oppression to be resisted. This is the drama of human history. Here is the stuff of war and strife and human rebellion to God. We make ourselves smaller and lesser creatures when we resist and rebel against God.
Key Message: Encounter with Daddy is the invitation; prayer as a loving relationship is the sacred portal and actively doing God’s will is the requirement of living in the new dimension (Heaven). We give God what is most precious—our free will.
Action step: Look at the areas in your life where you resist God or rebel against God. Have an open conversation with God about these.
Scripture Passage: John 3:1–21; Revelations Ch 4, 5.