Our Father, Common Prayer, and the Presence of God

The regular awareness of God’s presence, God as one who may constantly be spoken to without anxiety or specialized and intense preparation, is an awareness of being in heaven (being where God is). Thus the prayer, ‘Thy kingdom come,’ is a petition for this sense of the presence of the kingdom of heaven to become habitual so that God’s name may be fitly glorified: ‘hallowed be thy name’ immediately requires the prayer for the coming of the kingdom…It is worth noting that Teresa identifies the kingdom with a state in which we rejoice in the activity of a shared praise and a universal holiness…the stability of our prayer owes much to the sense of its being common prayer.

Rowan Williams, Teresa of Avila (London and New York: Continuum, 1991), p. 92, discussing Teresa’s treatment of the Lord’s Prayer in The Way of Perfection.

Williams’ short book on Teresa of Avila is a masterful introduction to some challenging material. One of the things I appreciate about this paragraph concerning Teresa’s exposition of the Our Father is the sense of the directness and simplicity of Christian prayer, as well as its deeply communal character. Even our most intimate personal devotions—to say nothing of the liturgical offices or the Holy Eucharist—are never offered alone but instead form part of the “activity of shared praise,” or “common prayer.” They are the graced actions of an ecclesial person, who lives and dies in relationship with divine and human others. The Kingdom of God, which for Teresa seems to be fairly close to what most of us would mean by the communion of the saints, is an inherently social reality.

And God can be approached directly and immediately as “Our Father” (there are other names), the gracious source and origin of all reality, without any need for specialized, esoteric techniques. For the Christian, mystical union is the free gift of the presence of God. And the way in is simple faith in Jesus, in the company of our brothers and sisters in every time and place.

As we journey together through the wilderness, in the shadow of the cross, may we be mindful of this simple gift.

The Rev. Bill Carroll serves as Rector of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Athens, Ohio. His parish blog is at here

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