Your Father knows

Published on 13 Feb 2018
Your Father knows what you stand in need of before you ask him. Matthew 6: 8

Your Father knows what you stand in need of before you ask him.

Matthew 6: 8

Tuesday – Week 1

Isaiah 55: 10-11

For just as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, and make it bring forth and produce, and yield seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so shall my word be:
It goes forth from my mouth;
it does not return to me empty-handed, until it achieves my desire,
and performs what I sent it to do.
Psalm 34: 4-7, 16-19
 
Glorify YHWH with me, and exult his name together.
I sought for YHWH, and he answered me – from all my troubles he delivered me.
Look to him and light up; and let their faces not be abashed.
This oppressed one called, and YHWH heard;
From all my distress he delivered me.
YHWH’s angel camps around those who fear God; and he rescues them.
Lions go poor and hungry; but those who seek for YHWH do not lack any good thing.
Come, children, listen to me: I shall teach you reverence for YHWH.
Who is the person who delights in life, who longs for time to look on what is good?
Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from telling lies.
Turn away from evil, and do good; seek peace and pursue it.
YHWH’s eyes are on the righteous, and his ears on their cry.
YHWH’s face is on those who do evil, to eliminate their memory from the earth.
[The righteous] cry out, and YHWH hears; from all their distress he rescues them.
YHWH is near to the broken-hearted; he rescues those who are crushed in spirit.
Matthew 6: 7-15
 
When you pray, don’t multiply words like the Gentiles; for they think God will hear them because of their garrulity. So don’t be like them: for your Father knows what you stand in need of before you ask him. So you are to pray like this:
 
‘Our Father in Heaven,
May your name be held holy.
May your kingdom come.
Let your will be done, as in heaven, so also on earth.
Give us today our daily bread.
And let us off what we owe you, just as we have let our debtors off.
And do not bring us to the test, but deliver us from the Evil One.
 
For if you let people off their transgressions, your Heavenly Father will also let you off. And if you don’t let people off, neither will your Father let you off your transgressions.

Today’s readings invite us into a place of deep trust and of recognising our dependence on God. Prayer can so easily become something I do, or a series of things I tell or ask God, rather than a space in which I allow God to do whatever needs to be done in me. Perhaps, it is even more difficult for us than it was in Jesus’ time to make space to allow ourselves to receive a word from God, and to trust that it will bring life. Prayer is not often answered instantly. We don’t have a ‘slot machine’ God or even a ‘Father Christmas’ God, but rather a God who desires a real relationship with us. Many of the things in our lives, such as email, the internet, microwave meals or summoning an Uber are ‘instant’. However, a life of prayer and a relationship with God is not instant. It is much more like the rhythm and pace of nature. We have to wait and trust that though the flowers do not bloom immediately, the rain soaking into the hard dry earth is producing its effects, and the flowers will surely blossom and the seed will ripen. Relationships take time and energy.

In the gospel Jesus is also saying something about simplicity and sincerity. Like a child with his or her mother or father, like two close friends, or two people in love, not many words are needed. We say the words of the “Our Father” so often that perhaps it has become over familiar to us, but it is a very simple and beautiful prayer. It affirms who God is “Our Father”, the one who loves us and cares for us. It asks simply for “our daily bread”, the basics of what we need just for today. We ask to be able to receive
God’s mercy and forgiveness and to show mercy and forgiveness to those who have hurt us.
We may wonder why we pray at all when God already knows our circumstances and what we need. In expressing our need we make ourselves vulnerable, we take a risk. We deliberately and intentionally allow God in, and so our sense of intimacy in the relationship deepens.
We also have to recognise that God is always the one who initiates in the relationship. Even when I think I am the one making time and space to spend with God, that impulse itself was given by God. Just as God is the one who sends the rain and the snow, and the sun too, he sends his word to touch our hearts. Even when the soil of our hearts is very dry and our minds are closed, God’s action is never without fruit. It may take some time for the flowers to blossom or the seeds to sprout, but we have his assurance that they will.
 
  • Can I just sit quietly with the Lord today?
  • You may want to say the Our Father very slowly or to just sit with it one phrase at a time.
  • Plant a seed and watch it grow as you nurture it.

Scripture translation by Nick King SJ. Reflections by Nick King SJ and Annemarie Paulin-Campbell, courtesy of Jesuit Institute South Africa.