Jesus said to his disciples:
“In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. “This is how you are to pray:
Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,
thy Kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
“If you forgive men their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive men,
neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.”
Matthew 6: 7-15
ST. JOHN OF THE CROSS
St. John of the Cross writes at great length about the attitude we should have when making intercession before God.
“The Lord has promised in the Gospel: Seek first, and chiefly, the kingdom of God and his justice, and all these other things will be added unto you [Mt 6:33]. This is the aim and petition that is most pleasing to God. To obtain an answer to the requests we bear in our hearts, there is no better means than to concentrate the strength of our prayers on what is more pleasing to God. Then he will give us not only the salvation we beg for but whatever else he sees is fit and good for us, even though we do not ask for it. David shows this clearly in a psalm: The Lord is near to those who call on him in truth [Ps 145:18], to those who ask for things that are most true, such as things pertinent to salvation. Of these individuals he says afterward: He will fulfill the will of those who fear him, and he will hear their prayers and save them. For God is the guardian of those who love him [Ps 145:19–20]. God’s being near, of which David speaks, is nothing more than his satisfying them and granting what it did not even enter their minds to ask for. We read that because Solomon had asked for something pleasing to God (that is, wisdom) so as to be certain of ruling the people justly, God answered him: Because wisdom pleased you more than any other thing, and you did not seek victory through the death of your enemies, or riches, or a long life, not only will I give you the wisdom you seek to rule my people justly, but I will even give you what you have not asked for, that is, riches and substance and glory so that no king, either before you or after you, will be like you [2 Chron 1:11–12]. And God in fact did this and pacified Solomon’s enemies, too, so that all who were around him paid him tribute and did not perturb him [1 Kgs. 4:21–24]” (A 3.44.2).
One of the earliest characteristics of Christians was their manner of prayer. This is not to say other folks did not pray; but rather that Christians approached prayer with an attitude of trusting God to answer their prayers through Christ. John of the Cross was a man of prayer and he taught his disciples that the best way to pray was to always seek what was more pleasing to God. To his way of thinking, the more we focus on what is pleasing to God, the less we are tied to having things work our according our pleasure. Another way of putting this is: the more we become selfless in our prayer, the more God-like we become; and that is the goal of all prayer in John of the Cross: become like God by participating in his divine nature.
God, our Father, your Son taught us how to pray with trust in you and in forgiving those who offend us. Grant, we ask, that we may grow in trust of your love for us, and in our ability to forgive as you have forgiven us so that we may be witnesses of your Son’s presence in the world.
We invite you to add your reflections and prayers in the comments section below.
Adapted from A Lenten Journey with Jesus Christ and St. John of the Cross by Fr. George Mangiaracina O.C.D.