“Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:8)

What a comfort to know that God understands not only what we want in the heat of the moment but what we truly need! What we need to sustain our human life, yes: “daily bread,” no more, no less. But more fundamentally, what we need to live at peace with each other: divine power to give and receive forgiveness. Even what we need but are unable to achieve on our own: protection and deliverance from the forces that would attack our union with him. And finally and most pro­foundly, what we need in order to glorify God and hasten the full com­ing of his kingdom on earth.

Yes, our Father knows what we need before we ask him, and Jesus has encapsulated all these needs in this one, perfect prayer. St. Thomas Aquinas tells us that in the Lord’s Prayer, we ask “not only for all the things we can rightly desire but also in the sequence that they should be desired.” Similarly, Tertullian tells us that since we all have our own particular petitions, we should pray the Lord’s Prayer first so that it can become “the foundation of further desires.”

In describing the close relation­ship between the Sermon on the Mount and this prayer, the Catechism teaches us that “the Spirit of the Lord gives new form to our desires… . Jesus teaches us this new life by his words; he teaches us to ask for it by our prayer.” The Catechism goes on to tell us that “as the Word incar­nate,” Jesus knows “the needs of his human brothers and sisters and reveals them to us: He is the model of our prayer.”

These master teachers urge us to immerse ourselves in the Lord’s Prayer so that we can come to know what we truly need—and so that we can receive it all from our heavenly Father. They explain Jesus’ statement that our Father knows all our needs, even the needs we can’t yet recog­nize. Daily bread, forgiveness, power over temptation, deliverance from evil: Your Father delights in pouring these gifts upon you day after day. So what do you need?

“Jesus, teach me to pray!”

Sirach 48:1-14; Psalm 97:1-7