Lord, Teach Us to Pray

St. Luke recounts an occasion on which Christ taught the Lord’s Prayer: “And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples'” (Lk 11:1). Here an adopted child of God asks the natural Son of God to teach God’s sons and daughters how to pray. Hear the comments of saints and sages on the significance of this event:

“The disciples having seen a new way of life, desire a new form of prayer. . . . Hence it follows, ‘When he ceased, one of his disciples said to him. Lord, teach us to pray,’ in order that we might not sin against God in asking for one thing instead of another, or by approaching God in prayer in a manner that we ought not.” -Titus of Bostra

“Boast not then of thy working, but of the grace of Christ; for therein is no arrogance, but faith. To proclaim what thou hast received is not pride, but devotion. Therefore raise thy eyes to thy Father, who begot thee by Baptism, redeemed thee by His Son. Say ‘Father’ as a son, but claim no especial favour to thyself. Of Christ alone is He the especial Father, of us the common Father. For Christ alone He begot, but us he created. . . . Heaven is where sin has ceased, and where there is no sting of death.” -Pseudo-Augustine

“The prayer which He taught contains in itself the mystery of each life, and the perfection of the lives themselves is to be obtained not by our own strength, but by prayer.” -St. Bede the Venerable

“He unfolds the teaching of prayer to His disciples, who wisely desire the knowledge of prayer, directing them how they ought to beseech God to hear them.” -St. Gregory of Nyssa

“If you thus go through all the words of the holy prayers, you will find nothing that is not contained in the Lord’s Prayer. Whoever then speaks such words as have no relation to this evangelic prayer, prays carnally. . . . Whoso in prayer says, Lord, increase my riches, add to my honours; and that from desire of such things, not with a view to doing men service after God’s will by such things; I think that he finds nothing in the Lord’s Prayer on which he may build such petitions. Let such an one then be withheld by shame from praying for, if not from desiring, such things.” -St. Augustine

“To pray for ourselves it is our necessity [that] compels us, to pray for others brotherly charity instigates.” -Pseudo-Chrysostom

Finally, St. Cyril of Alexandria asks: “Whereas He possesses every good in abundance, why does He pray, since He is full, and has altogether need of nothing?” He answers: “It befits Him, according to the manner of His dispensation in the flesh, to follow human observances at the time convenient for them. For if He eats and drinks, He rightly was used to pray, that He might teach us not to be lukewarm in this duty, but to be the more diligent and earnest in our prayers.”

Quotations from St. Thomas Aquinas, Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels Collected Out of the Works of the Fathers, Vols. I and III (Oxford: John Henry Parker, 1841-43).

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