The call to prayer requires teaching and encouragement. While we were made by God and for God, and have a natural desire for union with God, we need help in understanding and realizing how to pursue and live this union with our heavenly Father.

As we have to learn how to pray, the same is true of the Lord Jesus in his human nature. As he veiled his divine nature while among us, his human nature had to learn as we learn. He was taught how to pray in the intimacy of the Holy Family.

We can imagine the endearing scene of Our Lady and Saint Joseph teaching the Christ Child how to pray. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us: “The Son of God who became Son of the Virgin learned to pray in his human heart. He learns to pray from his mother, who kept all the great things the Almighty had done and treasured them in her heart.”

In addition to his mother and earthly father, the Lord Jesus was also taught how to pray by the prayers of God’s people. In particular, we can think of the Shema, Israel’s highest prayer, and the Book of Psalms, and the Kaddish, the prayers of mourning and grieving, which the Lord would have offered for Saint Joseph at the end of his life and which Our Lady would have offered for her Son, as she awaited his Resurrection.

As a people under a covenant with God, their sacrifices and prayers would reflect the knowledge and love that God had given them through divine revelation. The prayers and sacrifices, therefore, shaped their understanding of God and molded their way of life with him. The prayers would have been learned in the local synagogue, but especially in the Temple in Jerusalem.

The Catechism teaches us: “[Jesus] learns to pray in the words and rhythms of the prayer of his people, in the synagogue at Nazareth and the Temple at Jerusalem.”

Beyond the prayers he learned from his parents and from his people, the Lord has a deeper source of prayer as one who is consubstantial with the Father. While he must learn about prayer in his human nature, his divine nature dwells and rejoices in communion with the Father. It is a union that nothing can break for it is the source and foundation of all created things.

In this arena, the Catechism explains: “But [Jesus’] prayer springs from an otherwise secret source, as he intimates at the age of twelve: ‘I must be in my Father’s house.’”

The prayers of the Lord Jesus to the Father are not removed or distinct from the prayers of God’s people. The Lord takes to himself the prayers of God’s people. The prayer of the Lord consumes and elevates the prayers of the Old Covenant. It becomes something new and far more intimate to the heart of God than previously experienced or imagined.

The prayer of the Lord Jesus inaugurates a new era of prayer within the human family. Nothing before even comes close and nothing afterwards can exceed what the Lord Jesus gave us and taught us by his own life of prayer. It is the prayer of the heart. It is the prayer within a family. It is the prayer of a beloved son. By giving us this witness and example of prayer, the Lord teaches us how to pray as the children of God.

The Catechism observes: “Here the newness of prayer in the fullness of time begins to be revealed: [Jesus] filial prayer, which the Father awaits from his children, is finally going to be lived out by the only Son in his humanity, with and for men.”

In Jesus Christ, we see how we are able to pray to God the Father. A new era of prayer – marked by filial confidence – now begins between God and his people. The boldness of such an approach would have been unimaginable before the witness of the Lord Jesus. In him, we have a model and guide on how we are to pray.

We are not orphans. We are not slaves. We are the children of God and this shapes every aspect of our relationship with him, including how we speak and listen to him in prayer.