Godtalk: The reality prayer
When we pray the Lord’s Prayer we ask for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. Taken out of context, that might sound cold and impersonal. But Jesus gave this prayer as an example to his disciples who had asked how they could pray like Our Lord. They had found something attractive in him, in his way of life, and wanted to live like him.
And when we hear St Paul describing the effects of the Holy Spirit, of the Father and of the Son as love (charity), joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control, God’s will does sound most attractive. St Paul adds elsewhere in his letters humility and forgiveness, everything that is excellent and honourable and worthy of praise. (cf Gal 5:22, Col 3:12-17, Phil 4:4-9)
We certainly welcome all that on earth, the Spirit of ‘patience’, ‘kindness’ and so on. That Spirit of the Father and of the Son effects something eminently practical for everyday life. I don’t have to attain Olympic standards in everything to ensure God’s will is done. My ‘praiseworthy’ but unsuccessful efforts together with ‘excellence’ in any field were both the effects that St Paul ascribes to the Holy Spirit. The ‘patience’ we showed in that really difficult situation, that ‘gentleness’ with which we handled some junior’s serious mistake, our ‘self-control’ in the face of temptation were all the effects of the same Spirit.
In the Lord’s Prayer we are not asking for assurance that we will find heaven beyond this life. Jesus has assured us that if we pray, heaven will come on earth here and now, as in the example of the effects of the Holy Spirit described by St Paul.
Christianity is not a peculiar set of rules for a peculiar set of people called Christians. It’s all about reality, what is most real, what is most valuable, and what deserves our ultimate loyalty.
In Christ, heaven and earth are brought together. When you help me I know Christ is present. (cf Matt 24:31f ) When you smile at me I know God’s love is real. (cf John 15:12)
We not only find God in prayer and the sacraments. That helps us to find God anywhere - through our experience of ‘patience’, ‘kindness’, ‘self-control’ and so on. The gift of faith, heart-warmingly, makes us want God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven – through ourself.
Peter Knott SJ