He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples." He said to them, "When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial." And he said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.' And he answers from within, 'Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.' I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs. "So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" -Luke 11:1-13
About This Week's Prompts for Personal Meditation So I say to you Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Luke 11:9-10 Jesus responds to the disciples request for a prayer which binds his community together and summarizes his teaching: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial. ( Luke 11:2-4) The teaching is followed by the directive, ASK.
Many teachers of prayer say that all prayer condenses into these petitions one way or another, and if you're prayer somehow doesn't, check the quality of your desire. Give us, then, our bread for the morrow. Forgive us. Help us forgive. Please don't bring us to the horrific test. Your kingdom come! Now.
Asking, longing, begging the kingdom to manifest fully within us and around us is, I think, the most natural state of being and Jesus' prayer satisfies the need of expression. A mere glimpse intensifies our desire (Meditation One) which can never be fulfilled (Meditation Two). Nevertheless, we must bring back whatever treasure we do find, for the good of the community (Meditation Three). And perhaps the very wise may realize the very desire was the fulfillment.
May your longings deepen, Suzanne
Meditation One (Introit) The Hidden Princess
A parable. To what can this* be compared? (*reading Torah) To a lovely princess, beautiful in every way and hidden deep within her palace. She has one lover, unknown to anyone; he is hidden too. Out of his love for her, this lover passes by her gate constantly, lifting his eyes to every side. She knows that her lover is hovering about her gate constantly. What does she do? She opens a little window in her hidden palace and reveals her face to her lover, then swiftly withdraws, concealing herself. No one near the lover sees or reflects, only the lover, and his heart and his soul and everything within him flow out to her. And he knows that out of love for him she revealed herself for that one moment to awaken love in him.
-Zohar trans. Daniel Chanan Matt (Paulist Press edition)
Psalter of Duke Berry 1380-1420
These petitions are a cry out of the depths of distress. Out of a world which is enslaved under the rule of evil and in which Christ and Antichrist are locked in conflict, Jesus' disciples, seemingly a prey of evil and death and Satan, lift their eyes to the Father and cry out for the revelation of God's glory. But at the same time these petitions are an expression of absolute certainty. He who prays thus, takes seriously God's promise, in spite of all the demonic powers, and puts himself completely in God's hands, with imperturbable trust: 'Thou wilt complete Thy glorious work, Abba, Father.'
-Joachim Jeremias The Prayers of Jesus
The prayer that Jesus taught is among the shortest of the daily disciplines in the world's great religions. But to the eyes of Christian faith it shimmers like the most precious of diamonds. When we pray it, allowing ourselves to be centered in the kingdom petition, a prism effect occurs. With light from the Spirit, other parts of the prayer fan out into a rainbowlike display of what it means for us to participate in the coming reign of God. C.S. Lewis wrote that he had gotten into the habit of mentally “festooning” individual petitions of the Lord's Prayer as he prayed them. Festooning means “to adorn with colorful decorations,” and Lewis used the term to describe his way of adding “private overtones” to certain of the petitions. I think we can all do that. Both the prayer itself and the Spirit within us encourage our imaginations to paint with the full palette of the kingdom.
-John Koenig Rediscovering New Testament Prayer
A Woman Praying, Willem de Poorter 1608-1668
Meditation Two (Insight) "Seek My Face"
When He told me that He concealed much love, because I was not able to bear it, my soul answered: "If Thou art God omnipotent, make Thou me able to bear it." Then he made answer finally and said: "If I were to do as thou askest, thou wouldst have here all that thou desirest, and wouldst no longer hunger after Me. For this reason I will not grant thy request, for I desire that in this world thou shouldst hunger and long after Me and shouldst ever be eager to find me." -Angela of Foligno 1248-1309
You speak in my heart and say, "Seek my face." Your face, Lord, will I seek.
Meditation Three (Integration) The Two Kingdoms When the Hero-Quest has been accomplished, through penetration to the source, or through the grace of some male or female, human or animal personification, the adventurer still must return with his life-transmuting trophy. The full round, the norm of the monomyth, requires that the hero shall now begin the labor of bringing the runes of wisdom, the Golden Fleece, or his sleeping princess back into the kingdom of humanity, where the boon may redound to the renewing of the community, the nation, the planet, or the ten thousand worlds. …
...Nevertheless - and here is a great key to the understanding of myth and symbol - the two kingdoms are actually one. The realm of the gods is a forgotten dimension of the world we know. And the exploration of that dimension, either willingly or unwillingly, is the whole sense of the deed of the hero. The values and distinctions that in normal life seem important disappear with the terrifying assimilation of the self into what formerly was only otherness. -Joseph Campbell 1904-1987 The Hero with a Thousand Faces p.167, 188
The Last Word
You would not seek Me if you did not already possess Me. -Blaise Pascal 1623-1662
I remember as a young woman feeling liberated by reading these lines in Ernesto Cardinale's book LOVE:
The girl who dreams most of love, who is burning with love or the desire for love, she who most craves life and romance is the one who has the greatest capacity for surrendering herself to Jesus. She seeks him in her dreams, at dances and in all her loving but she does not find him there.
We were created for love, for a God who is love. And the worst sufferings and the hardest pains of each one of us are caused by love. …
Perpetual longing, the unquenchable thirst for intimacy, a gargantuan appetite for love, seems to me the most natural state of being. Fortunate are the ones who realize early enough that another human being can't possibly respond to this unrequitable need for love!
The material culture both exploits and re-orients our natural longings - in screaming advertising meant to dupe us into believing a product, a gadget, a glittering thing will satisfy our longing. It all comes at us so fast, we can't allow ourselves to feel foolish about it before we buy more stuff like an addict no longer inhabiting his own conscience. Food engineers concoct the perfect combinations of salt, sugar, and fat, creating a physical, chemical craving in the very brain, so that you will habitually buy that food-stuff or revisit that particular restaurant chain. Unless we're up on the research, our brains tells us we deserve a break today and we grab the car keys and go out for another fix, thinking we're just innocently going out to dinner … again.
In his prayer, Jesus acknowledges longing in one great begging for union. Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial (Luke 11:2-4) followed by the directive, ASK. So I say to you Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened (Luke 11:9-10). The prayer acknowledges that perpetual sense of unrequited love, the longing, the knowing my love can't be fulfilled temporally. Your kingdom come! My love-longing as large as a kingdom, can only be acknowledged by asking for the kingdom to come!
So it is good to have learned along the way, that my very capacities for intimacy, my raging sense of longing, equip me for a life of prayer. For what is prayer, really? Prayer is longing for that which can not be satisfied - in this lifetime. As Cardinal said, we are created for love: love eternal unbounded by time and space.