"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….
In Catholic liturgy we recite the Lord’s Prayer three times a day, during the Mass, Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer. We recite the prayer several times during the Rosary and often begin our meetings, especially ecumenical meetings, with the same prayer.
With all that repetition we may fall into the trap of babbling like the pagans, mindlessly. Early in Lent the Church invites us once again to ponder these words, even as Mary pondered the meaning of Gabriel’s greeting. And yet the words are so beautiful and rich with meaning, summarizing as they do our whole relationship with God, we should stop at the door, bless ourselves, take off our hats and coats and take a deep breath – as if we were leaving a crowded downtown sidewalk to enter a quiet basilica.
The word Our means, “You are not alone.” Because this is a liturgical prayer belonging to the entire church, because we are baptized into the communion, we always pray with one another. I can no more pray alone than I can stop being a priest, a Christian or a human being.
Nor would I want to pray alone, without the companionship of friars, family, friends, acquaintances and opponents. Were I to try it I might hear the contempt of God who thundered at Job,
Who is this who darkens counsel with words of ignorance? Gird up your loins now, like a man; I will question you, and you tell me the answers!No, I may be an introvert but I am neither an idealist nor a romantic. I will stay where God has placed me, in the midst of the Church and say, “Our Father…”
And, of course, the word Father leads to deeper and richer joy in the presence of this sacred prayer.
Typically, when reciting the rosary with others, we say the Lord's Prayer in one breath. While the leader intones, "Our Father who art in heaven..." the others inhales; and then pick up the rest of the prayer with a single exhale, "Give us this day.... Amen."
Occasionally I find it helpful to slow the prayer way down, to one breath per syllable: Our -- Fa -- ther -- who -- art-- in -- heav -- en....
The idea is not so much to think about the prayer as to breathe it slowly and to be the prayer. This kind of meditation forces the mind to attend each sound and ignore all the other fascinating things we might think about. They can wait. We're not saved by our thoughts but by the Lord. For this while I will simply be with the Word of God, who became flesh and lived among us.