In the pursuit of education, one's ability to understand and expound that which is learned is made possible by a gradual development of the curriculum. As this development continues, the learner is best served by occasional reviews which reinforce what has been learned and further enables the learner to continually progress in his or her studies.
The same is true with the formation of faith and prayer. This is not to suggest that the approach to these should be undertaken in a merely academic manner. Again, prayer is relationship with Christ. We are not just seeking to know about Him, but rather to KNOW Him.
And yet, when one sets out to know someone, if that person is really important to him or her, does he or she not seek to learn all that is possible about that person? If you have ever been in a relationship with someone, and that relationship was very important to you, then you understand.
So it is with our relationship with Christ and our understanding of prayer as we continue.
While the infant and parents begin to love each other through non-verbal means of communication, the development of that relationship is enhanced as the infant learns to speak.
At first it begins with "Goo goo, ga ga." Both the infant and the parents have no idea what those sounds are, but those sounds serve to reinforce the love that has already been substantiated in the relationship.
Gradually, the child forms the ability to enunciate a word or two.
How special must it be for that child as he or she realizes that its parents understand him or her! Likewise, the proud and loving parents embrace the child's limited ability to verbally communicate.
Stay with me on this baby thing, there is a purpose here.
How does the child learn to speak? The parents have spent a considerable amount of time speaking to him or her, especially focusing on those important words, "Mommy" and "Daddy."
“This is how you are to pray: Our Father..." - Matthew 6: 9
What joy the parents experience with the simple yet beautiful music of their child's voice speaking their name! What joy the child experiences when he or she realizes, "Mommy and Daddy understand me!"
The child's ability to speak these simple words does not signal his or her readiness to present a thesis, nor do the parents expect such. They are pleased and satisfied with the sound of their names for now.
When the Christian seeks to learn how to pray, where does he or she turn if not to Christ Himself?
"Lord, teach us to pray..." - Luke 11:1
Jesus knew the joy that both the Father and we would experience with these first words:
“When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come." - Luke 11:2
We all face troubles, some pain, loss, or other suffering. These are moments when it's hard to know how to pray. In our suffering we may feel like little helpless children, struggling to form the right words.
Jesus understands this as well. Suffering on the cross, in calling to God the Father, Jesus uses the word, "Abba." As I have written about before, this is the word that little children used for their fathers; "Daddy!"
Assignment for the day: Say those first words of the Our Father, but use the word "Daddy." "Daddy, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come." Reflect on that and the joy that it gives to God to hear your voice speaking to Him, blessing His Name. I bet you say it more than once.