The one who prays never prays alone.Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together
When Jesus taught us to pray, he did not teach us to pray “My Father” but “Our Father.” Why? The reason is as powerful as it is simple: Because when we pray, we never pray alone. It is almost a certainty that whenever we pray the Lord’s Prayer there is someone in the world praying it with us, even if we happen to be praying it alone. And there is great comfort in this knowledge. Whenever we pray, there are others praying with us, “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name …” We are part of a community of Christians around world, praying for us and with us, even as we pray for them and with them.
But there is another important reason why Jesus taught us to pray “Our Father” – it also reminds us that when we pray to our Father in Heaven, Jesus himself is always praying right along with us. We don’t pray alone, in other words, not just because we are always praying with our fellow Christians, but also because we are always praying with Jesus. He teaches us to pray to his Father, and he offers to pray with us, right alongside us. Every time we pray “Our Father” we can imagine Jesus right there praying with us. And that is not only comforting to think about, but amazing to imagine.
How does this happen? Well, Paul teaches us in Galatians that the Spirit of God’s Son has been sent into our hearts:
God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!Galatians 4:4-6
So, whenever we pray “Our Father,” we are praying as God’s children, made so through our baptisms into Jesus. Jesus’s Father is now our Father because of our baptisms into Christ. We are now and forevermore blessed to participate in the circle of love and of life that is the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Because of Jesus, we now pray to the Father through the Spirit of God’s Son. Or, to put it slightly differently, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, we can now pray to Jesus’s Father with Jesus himself at our side.
Amazing, isn’t it? A thought that is as powerful as it is simple: When we pray, we never pray alone. Every prayer that we pray is raised with our fellow Christians praying with us, with Jesus himself praying alongside us, and with the Holy Spirit interceding for us, helping us to pray with sighs too deep for words. (Romans 8:26)
So let us pray, today and always, with the blessed knowledge that whenever we pray, we never pray alone. And let us return, again and again, to the most perfect prayer of them all, the prayer that Jesus himself taught us.
[Jesus taught them, saying:]Matthew 6:9-13
“Pray then in this way:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us to the time of trial,
but rescue us from the evil one.”