Today we honour the memory of Saint Richard of Chichester, who is not quite a local saint, but he was chancellor to our own Saint Edmund of Abingdon when he was Archbishop of Canterbury. After Saint Edmund’s death Richard was appointed Bishop of Chichester. He was also a Dominican tertiary. The Church in England honours Saint Richard for his pastoral zeal and for making a moral stand against corrupt government. He died in 1253 and was canonised nine years later.
What a comfort it is for us to know that God understands not only what we want but also what we truly need. God knows what we need to sustain our human life, but more fundamentally, he knows what we need to live at peace with each other. He knows what we need in order to glorify God and hasten the full coming of his kingdom on earth.
God knows what we need before we even ask him, and Our Lord has encapsulated all these needs in one, perfect prayer. Saint Thomas Aquinas tells us that in the Our Father, we ask “not only for all the things we can rightly desire, but also in the sequence that they should be desired.” Tertullian tells us that since we all have our own particular petitions; we should pray the Our Father first so that it can become “the foundation of further desires.”
In describing the close relationship between the Sermon on the Mount and the Our Father, 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.”
This why the Our Father remains at the centre of all our prayer, so that we can come to know what we truly need—and so that we can receive it all from our heavenly Father who knows all our needs, even the needs we can’t yet recognise.