This is the fourth and last post in a series of posts about The Lord's Prayer as seen in Pope Benedict XVI's book Jesus of Nazareth and in St. Teresa of Avila's book The Way of Perfection. All posts in the series are in the category Carmelites and Pope Benedict XVI.
As a reminder, Pope Benedict XVI's Foreword says this his writing in Jesus of Nazareth is “in no way an exercise of the magisterium,” adding, “Everyone is free, then, to contradict me.” These posts discuss both their similarities and differences between them.
Deliver Us From Evil
The last petition of the Lord’s Prayer is “Deliver us from evil.”
Pope Benedict XVI writes that, in this petition, we are asking God to protect us from evil in this world. In that sense, he writes, “[T]he last petition brings us back to the first three: In asking to be liberated from the power of evil, we are ultimately asking for God’s Kingdom, for union with his will, and for the sanctification of his name. Throughout the ages, though, men and women of prayer have interpreted this petition in a broader sense. In the midst of the world’s tribulations, they have also begged God to set a limit to the evils that ravage the world and our lives.” (Jesus of Nazareth, pg. 167)
St. Teresa of Avila sees this petition as asking for God’s Kingdom in eternity, more than asking God to limit the evil in this world and in this life. She does not expect to be delivered from all evil in this life, and thus prays to be delivered from evil beyond the grave. (42:2). God, she says, wants us to desire the eternal. (42:4)
She prays (42:2):
“Deliver me, Lord, from this shadow of death, deliver me from so many trials, deliver me from so many sufferings, deliver me from so many changes, from so many compliments that we are forced to receive while still living . . . .”
In the weariness of seeing that she has not lived the way she should have lived, she writes, “O my Lord and my God, deliver me now from all evil and be pleased to bring me to the place where all blessings are.”
Knowing the Mind and Will of God
While St. Teresa prays “deliver us from evil” with the expectation that this prayer will not be fully answered before eternity, she writes much about the importance of obedience in this life, and about the need for communion with Christ to make us better able to do God's will in this life.
In seeking to know “who the Master is who taught us this prayer” (St. Teresa's words), both Benedict XVI and St. Teresa seek both knowledge about the Lord and the personal encounter with the Lord that involves knowing Him.
Going back to the Pope's introduction of his discussion of the Lord’s Prayer, he writes: “God is not some distant stranger. He shows us his face in Jesus. In what Jesus does and wills, we come to know the mind and will of God himself.”
St. Teresa writes about the need to do God’s will, and about the way Jesus teaches us how to do that. Since Jesus “knows how the love of his Father can be obtained, he teaches us how and by what means we must serve him.” The more our deeds reflect Christ’s teaching, Christ “begins to commune with the soul in so intimate a friendship that he not only gives it back its own will but gives it his.” (The Way of Perfection, 32:12)
On Being Human
In his chapter on the Lord’s Prayer, Pope Benedict writes “The Lord tells us how we are to pray.” Jesus does so because “being human is essentially about relation to God,” such that speaking with, and listening to Him is “an essential part of it.”
St. Teresa, similarly, counsels, “Never seek sustenance through human schemes, for you will die of hunger—and rightly so. Your eyes on your Spouse! He will sustain you.” (2:1)
The Face of the Lord
In his Foreword to Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict writes that the book is “an expression of my personal search ‘for the face of the Lord’ (cf. Ps 27:8).”
He writes, “Our sonship turns out to be identical with following Christ.” We become increasingly God’s children “by growing more and more deeply in communion with Jesus.”
St. Teresa, similarly, counsels her nuns to speak with Christ “as with a father, or a brother, or a lord, or as with a spouse” and “he will teach you what you must do in order to please him.” (28:3).
Both of them seek that longing for an increasing personal encounter with Jesus that can be expressed as seeking the face of the Lord.
While they do not always share the same interpretation of each petition of the Lord’s Prayer, both Pope Benedict XVI and St. Teresa of Avila write of seeking to know Christ, and not only seeking to know about Him. They seek to know and do His will, and -- in watching how Jesus prays -- to better know the mind and will of God. Above all, they both seek to “grow more and more deeply in communion with Jesus” (Pope Benedict's words). In writing for others, they both seek to share with us those things they know about prayer and about Jesus that will help us who read their work to more and more deeply know Jesus and the mind and will of the Lord.