It was not till fourteen years had passed that I went up to Jerusalem again. I went with Barnabas and took Titus with me. I went there as the result of a revelation, and privately I laid before the leading men the Good News as I proclaim it among the pagans; I did so for fear the course I was adopting or had already adopted would not be allowed. On the contrary, they recognised that I had been commissioned to preach the Good News to the uncircumcised just as Peter had been commissioned to preach it to the circumcised. The same person whose action had made Peter the apostle of the circumcised had given me a similar mission to the pagans. So, James, Cephas and John, these leaders, these pillars, shook hands with Barnabas and me as a sign of partnership: we were to go to the pagans and they to the circumcised. The only thing they insisted on was that we should remember to help the poor, as indeed I was anxious to do.
When Cephas came to Antioch, however, I opposed him to his face, since he was manifestly in the wrong. His custom had been to eat with the pagans, but after certain friends of James arrived he stopped doing this and kept away from them altogether for fear of the group that insisted on circumcision. The other Jews joined him in this pretence, and even Barnabas felt himself obliged to copy their behaviour.
When I saw they were not respecting the true meaning of the Good News, I said to Cephas in front of everyone, ‘In spite of being a Jew, you live like the pagans and not like the Jews, so you have no right to make the pagans copy Jewish ways.’
Once Jesus was in a certain place praying, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’ He said to them, ‘Say this when you pray:
“Father, may your name be held holy,
your kingdom come;
give us each day our daily bread,
and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive each one who is in debt to us.
And do not put us to the test.”’
“Father, hallowed be your name…”
When I was younger, I had a lot of difficulty praying because I did not know what to say to God or how to put my thoughts across to Him. To make matters worse, I was in a church group that practiced a lot of spontaneous and verbalized prayers, and I found myself avoiding meet ups and group meetings because I was terrified of being called up to lead in such prayers. This fear was etched deeply within my heart because I was often compared to a peer who had “better” prayers than I did, and since then, I often felt that I would be judged for my prayers and no matter how sincere I was, it was not good enough for God and for those around me. The only prayer that I was confident of verbalizing was the Lord’s Prayer, because it is from the Bible, and I did not receive any negative comparisons when I recited the Lord’s Prayer.
When I was 15, I attended a church retreat and the pastor’s wife encouraged me to pray the Lord’s Prayer and to pray for the desire to be able to pray without fear. Since then, I started praying the Lord’s Prayer during my quiet time, especially when I did not know what else to say to God or when I was so troubled that I could not focus on my time with God. I slowly came to the realization that I had a deep desire to pray spontaneously; however due to my fear, I often stifled this desire and preferred to stay away from such opportunities. I stayed away for many years as I left the church thereafter, and it was only when I returned to the faith did I realize that this desire was still present within me. It was about 6 months after I was received into the Catholic church when I was thrown into the deep end where I was asked to give a closing prayer after a session I attended. Instead of being overwhelmed by fear, I felt a comforting reassurance which reminded me that if I froze or ran out of words to say, I could always rely on the Lord’s Prayer. I found that the minute I took the first step, God guided me through the prayer, and I experienced new-found freedom while praying. Since then, whenever I have been tasked to lead in prayer, I find myself experiencing joy, and during my quiet moments, I often return to the Lord’s Prayer as a reminder that this is how my praying journey began.
Brothers and sisters, during moments of tiredness or moments when we find it tough or impossible to pray, let us remember the Lord’s Prayer, and to offer up the feelings we are experiencing to the Lord, and let us always remember the goodness and faithfulness of the Lord through this prayer.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Hannah Huang)
Prayer: Dearest merciful Father, remind us that we can pray the Lord’s Prayer if we are unable to pray, and continue to grace us with the desire to pray on a daily basis, and to use our prayers to draw closer to you.
Thanksgiving: Dearest Father, thank you for the gift of the Lord’s Prayer, that we are able to seek your consolation and your love especially through this Prayer.