By Ben Gerigk,
Saint Brendan Catechist &
Aspirant to the Priesthood
Each week, we summarize a specific style, form, or approach to prayer, using the highly-acclaimed book by Robert J. Wicks, Prayer in the Catholic Tradition: A Handbook of Practical Approaches (Franciscan Media 2006). In this article, you’ll learn more about the way Jesus prayed and taught his disciples to pray in the Gospel of Matthew.
Since the early days of the Church, Matthew’s Gospel has been considered to be a kind of “catechism,” or a summary of principles, for living the Christian life. In particular, the gospel writer emphasizes, perhaps more than others, both Jesus’ personal example of prayer and his instruction on how to pray.
Matthew provides a number of examples of Jesus in prayer. For example, he prayed on the mountain alone (Matthew 14:23), prayed in thanksgiving for the rations of bread and fish he multiplied for the crowds (Matthew 14:19; 15:36), and prayed a blessing over the children brought to him by the crowds (Matthew 19:13). We even see how Jesus prayed during the ordeal of his crucifixion. In the Garden of Gethsemane before his arrest, for example, Jesus prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39).
As these stories demonstrate, Jesus in his humanity had a close bond with God the Father, which he strengthened through consistent prayer. He put his trust in God throughout his life as he performed miracles and good deeds and even in the rough times as he was nailed to the cross.
The Gospel of Matthew not only provides examples of Jesus praying, it also has his teaching on how to pray (Matthew 6:9-15). Compared to Luke’s Gospel, Matthew provides a more elaborate version of the Our Father. The prayer acclaims God through three “you” petitions (“hallowed be your name,” “your kingdom come,” and “your will be done”), and includes three “we” petitions asking for God’s help (“give us today our daily bread,” “forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,” and “do not subject us to the final test but deliver us from the evil one”).
These components of the Our Father form the basis of authentic Christian prayer. From it, we learn reverence for our Father “who is in heaven,” the inextricable link between prayer and action as we ask for God’s kingdom to come to earth by doing his will, and the need to reflect in our own lives what we ask of God by being ready to forgive as we ask God to forgive us. These lessons all are embodied in the model of prayer that is Jesus’s gift to us. It is a prayer that reaches deep into our Jewish heritage and that epitomizes the mission of Jesus himself.
If you would like to deepen your own prayer experience, consider joining one of the many small groups at Saint Brendan Church or take a few minutes to listen to one of our Small Bytes talks on prayer. Learn more on our website at www.stbrendanparish.org.