Fr. Paul D. Scalia: Pray Like a Child

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By Fr. Paul D. Scalia, The Catholic Thing, July 28, 2019

Fr. Paul D. Scalia“He said to them, ‘When you pray, say: Father . . .’” So begins our Lord’s beautiful catechesis on prayer. (Lk. 11:1-13) We should linger over that first word: Father. To say Father means to be a child. To say it authentically requires knowing oneself to be a child of God. So our Lord’s very first word on prayer contains the principle of divine filiation – our being children of God in the Son, able to go to the Father through, with, and in Him. Christian prayer rests on this fundamental truth. All prayer flows from our identity as children of God. Father is both the first and the last word on prayer.

In fact, the straightforward request that prompts our Lord’s instruction already indicates the childlike attitude necessary for prayer: “[O]ne of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us how to pray.’” The first step of prayer is to realize, like this disciple, that we do not know how to pray as we ought. (Rom. 8:26) Prayer begins not with our strength and knowledge but with our weakness and docility.

This truth is offputting to the proud but consoling to anyone who has tried to pray and found himself lacking. Praying requires the acknowledgement that we need to be instructed. In effect, every prayer begins with “Lord, teach me how to pray.”