A Reflection on
By: Larry T.
When one of the disciples approached Jesus and asked, Lord, teach us to pray, Jesus knew the reason for the request. With the foreknowledge of God and with the insight of His own humanity, He taught them the Lord’s Prayer.
2He said to them, “When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
3Give us each day our daily bread
4and forgive us our sins
for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us,
and do not subject us to the final test.”
– Luke 11:2-4 (N.A.B.)
The Catechism of the Catholic Church introduces us to the Lord’s Prayer this way:
The traditional expression “the Lord’s Prayer” — oratio Dominica—means that the prayer to our Father is taught and given to us by the Lord Jesus. The prayer that comes to us from Jesus is truly unique: it is “of the Lord.” On the one hand, in the words of this prayer the only Son gives us the words the Father gave him: he is the master of our prayer. On the other, as Word incarnate, he knows in his human heart the needs of his human brothers and sisters and reveals them to us: he is the model of our prayer. - C.C.C. 2765
Worldwide, it is estimated that as many as two billion Catholic, Anglican, Protestant and Eastern Orthodox Christians who share in the celebration of Easter read, recite, or sing the Lord’s Prayer in hundreds of languages on a typical Easter Sunday. Even though theological differences and various modes of worship divide Christians, the Lord’s Prayer unites us.
While it has its place in our liturgy, it is worth reflecting on the value of the Lord’s Prayer to us personally because it is one of the spiritual lifelines that Jesus provided for us. Many of us will cling to this lifeline in the face or imminent danger or death. Soldiers use it regularly.
The Allied invasion of Normandy which took place on June 6, 1944 is a classic example. By 6:30 a.m. a line of Higgins Boats (landing craft) faced the six mile wide expanse of Omaha Beach. At exactly 6:36 a.m. the boat ramps dropped and soldiers of the U.S. Army jumped off into choppy 45 degree water that was anywhere from waist deep to higher than a man's head. Those soldiers who managed to make it to shore faced withering German machine gun and sniper fire, but by nightfall, the Army had gained a toehold on the beach and its immediate vicinity - the cost was 3,000 dead, missing, or wounded.
Eighteen year old Private Jack Wiggins was in the first assault wave. He managed to crawl out of the water onto the beach, and as he stood up and started to run forward he was hit in both legs with machine gun fire – that was the end of the battle for him. He recovered from his wounds, stayed in the Army, and went on to fight in the Korean War. By the time I met Jack in 1964, he was a Master Sergeant. We roomed across from each other in the Non-Commissioned Officer’s quarters so we naturally became friends.
One Saturday morning, following a five mile run, Jack noticed me studying those faded, but still nasty looking scars on his legs. “Larry, that’s what happens when you get hit by a German machine gun.”
“Jack that must have been a wild ride in on the Higgins boats.”
He lit a Pall Mall cigarette, took a deep drag, and exhaled. “Yeah, the ocean was rough and the wind was blowing like crazy. We were bouncing all over the place. A lot of guys jumped into water that was over their heads and drowned once their gear got water-logged.”
“What were you thinking on the boat ride in?”
He took another drag on the Pall Mall. “Well, I double checked my gear for the umpteenth time then started praying the Lord’s Prayer over and over until the ramp dropped. Every Christian, and even some atheists, did exactly the same thing; I could hear them.”
“Jack, I’ve never seen you go to church on Sunday.”
He grinned. “Larry, maybe after we’ve won this Vietnam War that’s coming up, I’ll retire, buy a nice little house with a white picket fence, and have time to get to church every Sunday. In the meantime I will pray the Lord’s Prayer before every battle – if there’s time that is.”
I wonder how many Christian and non-Christian soldiers, in desperate of reassurance reached out for Jesus’ lifeline and recited the Lord’s Prayer before they climbed out of a foxhole and charged the enemy. I wonder how many died with the unfinished prayer on their lips. I wonder how many German machine gunners and snipers on Omaha Beach were also sustained by the Lord’s Prayer as they waited for the Americans to hit the beach.
We don’t have to be soldiers going into harm’s way to reach for Jesus’ lifeline. Many of us in the face of imminent danger or death will resort to the consolation of the Lord’s Prayer. For example, I have another friend who is recovering from open heart surgery. When I asked her which prayer she recited before the anesthesia did its work, she said. “Larry, it was the Our Father.”
This Year of Faith is intended to be an opportunity for us to turn back to Jesus so that we might enter into a deeper relationship with Him. In doing this we might reflect on the gift of the Lord’s Prayer, its everlasting impact on humanity, and marvel at God’s wisdom and love for us.