When his disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, he taught them what has become known and familiar as "The Lord's Prayer" or the "Our Father." We know that Jesus is portrayed in the gospels as praying often, especially before significant events in his life. It is unlikely, at least in my mind, that he was repeating formulaic prayers which is what we typically do with the Our Father.
Prayer is fundamentally placing oneself consciously in the presence of God by calling to our consciousness the underlying reality of our identity and our relationship with the Divine. The Irish Jesuits in their edifying web site--Living Space--have helped me understand the Our Father as a set of themes for reflection during a time of prayerful relationship with the Divine.
Often we become caught up in the controversy about whether to call God father or mother or both or neither. We have traditionally used the masculine form because of cultural bias about the superiority of the male over the female. But this issues misses the point of Jesus' instruction. The Divine has no gender. God is neither Father nor Mother and yet is both. The parental notion is as close as human conscious can come to the creative reality of the divine.
Call God "Our Father" is not about the nature of God so much as about the nature and relationship of all of us. If God is precisely our Father, then all of us are sons and daughters of the same parent. In fact, we are brothers and sisters to all people who ever have been, are now, or will be. Even more, we are brothers and sisters to all that has been, is now, or ever will be. "Our Father" is meant to remind us that we are united ontologically with all--people and things. It is this radical equality which should be reflected in our solidarity with all people and in our stewardship of all creation.
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Location:Charissa Run,Rochester,United States