Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Maslow, the Our Father, and the 12 Steps

I heard something on Catholic Radio that I thought was very insightful.
We pray the Our Father forwards, but live it backwards. 
In thinking about this, I realized that the Lord's Prayer is, in some ways, like psychologist Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of needs, which starts at the most basic human needs; only when they are met can we move on to try to satisfy higher needs.

For example, if a student comes to school hungry, or with worries about violence in their home or neighborhood, they can't learn.  They can't focus on learning until those more basic needs of food and safety are met.

Similarly, the Our Father starts (if you take it from the end, as the above quote suggests) with the most important and most basic of spiritual needs.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. 
We need, first, to be delivered from evil before we do anything else. What evil is and where we find it is the difficulty in this confusing and troubling world.  We must, I think, stay close to Christ, and remember that we can't support ourselves in this world alone. The first of Alcoholics Anonymous' famous 12 steps, speaks of this need.
We admitted we were powerless...that our lives have become unmanageable. 
The Psalmist reminds us that only in God can our soul find rest.  There are times when we cannot see the evil as it influences our lives and decisions.  But, with God, all things are possible. Once we have given over our lives to God, we can beg Him to keep us away from the evil that inevitably surrounds us and influences us.  We cannot do it alone.

Next, we discover that a big part of keeping away from evil is forgiveness.
And, forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. 
This, too, requires us to ask the Lord for help.  Again, the 12 steps speak to us:
Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings. 
There are those who, in their spiritual lives, focus solely on what (they think) God wants of them, never thinking to ask God for the strength to carry that out.

 Daily bread.  Give us this day our daily bread.

This can be taken to mean the literal need of food, but it can also mean the Bread of Life in the Eucharist. Taken this way, it is natural that it would come after (in this way of looking at it) our asking God to forgive us our sins. The daily bread of communion, both literal and spiritual, is something we cannot live without.

The 12 steps tell us to seek, through prayer, to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of His will and the power to carry that out. 

After communing with God, it is natural that we seek His Kingdom as it is played out in our lives.  This can only happen after we seek Him out, ask His help, confess our sins, and receive His daily bread.
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 
We will naturally want to further the Kingdom of God, but, again, it is important to realize that, as fallible human beings, we will just as naturally mess that up, in our own lives, and in others'. We need to remain humble and continue to believe that a power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity. 

The last stop in the Lord's Prayer, is praise.  Acknowledge that God is everyone's Father, and that He deserves our praise. After we have humbled ourselves and given our lives over to a Power greater than our sinful selves, we can more fully realize and live our lives in God's presence. 

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Dymphna's favorite quotes

"Slavery ended in medieval Europe only because the church extended its sacraments to all slaves and then managed to impose a ban on the enslavement of Christians (and of Jews). Within the context of medieval Europe, that prohibition was effectively a rule of universal abolition. "— Rodney Stark

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