How do we pray? Jesus taught us how to pray. He gave us a pattern of prayer in the Lord's prayer.
“Our Father in Heaven holy be your name your kingdom come your will be done on earth as in heaven Give us this day our daily bread Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever, Amen”
A few months back, as I was reflecting on this prayer, a thought came to my mind. I thought about how my children welcome me when I got home from work. As soon as they hear the door open, they drop whatever they do and excitedly rush to the door shouting “Papa”. They will then embrace me and kiss me. This got me to think. My children never ask me to feed them everyday, yet I do. My children never ask me to forgive their many childish pranks, yet I do. And what parent would lead their children to temptation or not protect their children from evil? In that one word, “Papa”, my children expressed these things to me.
This made me think. If I do these instinctively for my children, would the Lord not do these to them also? Then why do we have to tell him to do these things for us? I then realized that if I added the word “You” before every petition, I get the real meaning of the prayer. As in my children's exclamation of the word “Papa”, this prayer is our exclamation of the word “Papa” to our Father. In it we express our confidence that he will do what we asked for. He gives us our daily bread. He forgives us our debts as we forgive our debtors. He does not lead us to temptation and he delivers us from evil.
This goes to another question: then why does God not grant some of our prayers? Look at the prayer of Jesus. The Father will surely do these for us. These are petitions that are according to the will of the Father and thus these will be done. Jesus said, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given to you.” When I first read this promise, I was asking the Lord for something and it seemed like the Lord would not give what I asked for. I then told the Lord, “But you said, ask whatever you wish and it will be given to you. Why are you not giving me what I wished for?” I felt the Lord tell me that I have not met the condition for this. I was so focused on the second part that I forgot the most important condition: If I remained in him and his words remain in me.
What then does it mean to remain in God and for his word to remain in me? I think this means that we have to be in tuned with God's will. So if we ask something that is according to his will, he will surely give it. Take our children as an example. If it is time for them to study and they say, “Can I study now?” Do you say no? Of course not! You are even pleased that your child has the initiative to ask for something you wanted him to do.
So then, how should we pray? Jesus said, “Do not babble like pagans. Who think that they can get what they ask for by the length of their prayers.” Are we like pagans in our prayers? Do we babble on and on asking the Lord to give us this or to heal someone? St. Paul said, “We do not know how to pray that is why the Spirit helps us to pray.” We take this as our clue to true prayer. When we pray, we ask the Lord to show us what he wants us to pray for. Then when the Lord reveals it to us, we pray for it. Such prayer shows total surrender to the Lord and if such is our prayer, we are sure that all that we ask for will be given to us.