It is another Monday morning. The weekend was great but not long enough. The hustle and bustle of the day has begun. You are rushing to get off to work to avoid the morning traffic. You have driven to work so many times that the sights pass by without a thought. This morning the only change was the ambulance roaring by for which you had to pull over. So annoying! All the other sights were the same. The cemetery on Spring road and 5th, the street peddlers on the interstate ramp, and the car crashes along the highway. You thankfully arrive on time and you can carry on with another Monday.
In the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 11:2-4, Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray. The Lord’s Prayer or the “Our Father,” is perhaps the most well know Christian prayer. It is one of the first prayers children memorize. This story in Luke takes up four short verses. The brevity in the Bible does not minimize the importance of this prayer. This prayer is in the mass, every day. It is in the Liturgy of the Hours in both the Morning and Evening prayer, and in prayer books. This is the prayer that Jesus gave to us in the Bible. It significance has not gone unnoticed. Or has it?
By the end of my first paragraph, you surely knew where this was going. You knew the ending of this article. That is right. If we go back to the first paragraph, what could you have been doing? How many “Our Fathers” could have, should have, been said? Every single day, each of us has at least one instance that we see someone in need. Every day we have a chance to pray for someone. Yet every day, consumed by the routines and busyness of our lives, we so easily forget. If we take the time to look around we can see the hurt. The cigarette on the ground, the beggar on the street, the ambulance speeding by, the cemetery, the broken buildings, the elderly person slowly moving down the sidewalk using a walker, etc. These reminders of suffering are all around us. They are so common, in fact, that we learn to ignore them. Or perhaps we ignore them because we recognize the suffering and we unconsciously turn away from it. Or maybe we tell ourselves that we don’t have time to deal with it.
These excuses that we make lead us to the story of the Good Samaritan. When we miss the indicators of need in our surroundings we become like the Levite and the Priest in the story of the Good Samaritan, which is told in the Chapter immediately preceding the chapter containing the Lord’s Prayer. In that story we find a man dying on the side of the road. Two church officials pass by the man. Finally a Samaritan, a total stranger, sees the fellow and helps him. Our injured brothers and sisters do not have to be physically dying in the road in front of us in order to need our help. Our injured brothers and sisters are in the cigarette on the ground, in the person begging off the interstate ramp, in the ambulance, the cemeteries, the broken beer bottles, etc. They are in the Ronald McDonald House, nursing homes and the hospitals that we drive by every day going here and going there. Yet how often do fall into the role of the Levite and the Priest, passing these indicators of suffering by? We can join Jesus’ disciples in asking “Lord, teach us to pray.”
Jesus taught us the Lord’s Prayer. But this prayer should not be left to church services and prayer books. What Jesus taught us in Luke Chapter 11 is the prayer that we can offer to the suffering souls around us, each day. This familiar prayer is one that we are too inclined to take for granted because it is as familiar as the sights we pass on our drive to work. If we want to make a difference in this suffering world, let us pray for our brothers and sisters that we so often pass by. Let us recognize our suffering brothers and sisters in the things and sights that are around us. Let us offer up many “Our Fathers” throughout each day, for ourselves, our loved ones, the Church, and for the person who smoked the cigarette butt on the ground. Let us work here and not to do better at not tuning out our surroundings.