The “Our Father” is “a brief, daring prayer made up of seven questions — a number that isn’t accidental in the Bible but that indicates fullness…the “Our Father” prayer sinks its roots in man’s concrete reality.”
This is how Pope Francis described Christianity’s most fundamental prayer during his December 12, 2018, General Audience in Paul VI Hall. He pointed out that Jesus didn’t direct the disciples to start the prayer with meekness or exultations but to simply ask for their basic needs. Give us our daily bread. Forgive our sins. Deliver us from evil.
“Prayer — Jesus teaches us — doesn’t begin in human existence after the stomach is full, rather, it nests wherever there is a man, any man who is hungry, who weeps, who struggles, who suffers and wonders ‘why’,” the Pope said. “In a certain sense, our first prayer was the cry that accompanied our first breath. Announced, in that newborn’s cry, was the destiny of our whole life: our constant hunger, our constant thirst and our constant quest for happiness.
“Jesus doesn’t want to extinguish what is human in prayer; He doesn’t want to anesthetize it. He doesn’t want us to dampen our questions and requests, learning to endure all. Instead, He wants every suffering, every anxiety to leap towards Heaven and become a dialogue.”
The Holy Father recalled the story of the blind beggar, Bartimaeus, who kept crying for help – to the point that people tried to keep him quiet and not bother the Lord. They told the man, “The Lord is passing. Shut up. Don’t disturb. The Master has so much to do; don’t disturb Him. You are annoying with your cries.”
Francis explained that Jesus knew the man just wanted to be healed and he restored his sight: “Not only does prayer precede salvation but it already contains it in some way because it frees one from the despair of one who doesn’t believe in a way out of so many unbearable situations.”
The Holy Father noted that Christians want to praise God. For example, early Christians added a doxology to the prayer: “For yours is the power and the glory forever”.
“However, none of us is asked to embrace the theory that someone in the past advanced, that, namely, the prayer of request is a weak form of faith, whereas the most genuine prayer is pure praise, that which seeks God without the weight of a request. No, this isn’t true,” the Pope concluded. “The prayer of request is genuine, is spontaneous, it’s an act of faith in God who is the Father, who is good, who is Almighty.”