Wednesday, June 18, 2003

We never pray by ourselves or for ourselves alone

This week in the Liturgy of the Hours we are presented with the teachings of St. Cyprian on the Lord's Prayer. I'm a mostly-housebound anchor hold dweller, which means that I pray all by myself a lot. So each time the Eleventh week of Ordinary Time comes, and these teachings of St Cyprian, they are particularly striking.

This from Monday's passage:
Above all, he who preaches peace and unity did not want us to pray by ourselves in private or for ourselves alone. We do not say "My Father, who art in heaven," nor "give me this day my daily bread." It is not for himself alone that each person asks to be forgiven, not to be led into temptation, or to be delivered from evil. Rather, we pray in public as a community, and not for an individual but for all. For the people of God are all one.
.....Scripture relates:
They all joined together in continuous prayer, with the women including Mary, the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers. They all joined together in continuous prayer. The urgency and the unity of their prayer declares that God, who fashions a bond of unity among those who live in his home, will admit into his divine home for all eternity only those who pray in unity.

So even when I am all by myself, I am not alone. I cannot and must not be.

St Cyprian proceeds to teach on the Lord's Prayer, one clause at a time. In today's portion, we pray that "Your will be done on earth as in heaven," and he writes:

This is not that God should do what he wills, but so that we may be able to do what God wills. For who could resist God in such a way as to prevent him doing what he wills? But since the devil hinders us from obeying, by thought and by deed, God’s will in all things, we pray and ask that God’s will may be done in us. For this to happen, we need God’s good will – that is, his help and protection, since no-one is strong in and of himself but is kept safe by the grace and mercy of God. Moreover, the Lord, showing the weakness of the humanity which he bore, said Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me, and showing his disciples an example, that they should do not their own will but God’s, he went on to say nevertheless, let it not be my will, but yours.
But it is the will of God that Christ both did and taught. Humility in dealings with others; steadfastness in faith; modesty in words; justice in deeds; mercifulness in works; discipline in morals. To be unable to do a wrong, and to be able to bear a wrong when it is done; to keep peace with the brethren; to love God with all one’s heart; to love God because he is a Father but fear him because he is God; to prefer nothing whatever to Christ because he preferred nothing to us; to adhere inseparably to his love; to stand faithfully and bravely by his cross; when there is any conflict over his name and honour, to exhibit in discourse that steadfastness in which we proclaim him; in torture, to show that confidence in which we unite; in death, that patience in which we are crowned – this is what it means to want to be co-heirs with Christ, this is what it means to do what God commands, this is what it is to fulfil the will of the Father.

And as we beg it of Him, it is our Lord, always, that grants us the strength to endure, and the gift to form again, properly, our lives and our whole world.

Holy Church gives us more of this teaching right through the weekend, so later in the week I'll likely be posting more of it. Maybe when it gets to "forgive we forgive...."?

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