Following in the footsteps of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in this series of audiences Francis has developed various aspects of prayer, underlining its necessity for the Christian, whose heart yearns for an encounter with God.
Prayer and creation
Bartimaeus' shouting prayer is an example of how prayer is a "living and personal relationship with the living and true God." (Catechism, 2559), which springs from faith and love. Man prays because he longs for the encounter with God (cf. General Audience, 13-V-2020).
Christian prayer is born of the revelation of God in Jesus. "That is the incandescent core of all Christian prayer. The God of love, our Father who waits for us and accompanies us." (Ibid.). From this springs admiration for the beauty and mystery of creation, which bears "God's signature," together with gratitude and hope, even in the face of difficulties.
Prayer in the Old Testament
The book of Genesis testifies to the spread of evil throughout the world, but also to the prayer of the righteous to the God of life. That is why the prayer taught to children is a seed of life. The Pope refers to the case of an atheist head of government who found God because he remembered that "grandmother prayed".
Abraham's prayer accompanies his personal story of faith; Jacob's "struggle" with God reveals to him human frailty, changes his heart and gives him a new name (Israel). Moses, with his life of prayer, becomes the great legislator, liturgist and mediator, "bridge" and intercessor before God for his people, but always humble. David will be shepherd and king, saint and sinner, victim and executioner; prayer, the guiding thread of his life, gives him nobility and places him in the hands of God. Elijah teaches us the need for recollection and the primacy of prayer in order not to make mistakes in our actions.
The great school of prayer in the Old Testament is the Psalms, the Word of God that teaches us to speak with Him. The psalms show that prayer is the salvation of the human being, provided it is a true prayer, which leads us to the love of God and of others. Therefore, not recognizing the image of God in others is a "practical atheism", a sacrilege, an abomination, a grave offense that cannot be brought before the altar (cfr. General Audience, 21-X-2020). This is an accent very characteristic of Francis, in line with the Fathers of the Church.
Jesus and prayer, Our Lady and the Church
Jesus was a man of prayer. He prayed at his baptism, opening the way to his unique filial prayer into which he wanted to introduce us, to welcome us, beginning at Pentecost. Above all, with his perseverance in prayer, Jesus is a teacher of prayer. Without it we lack the oxygen we need to go forward. We must pray with courage and humility, even in the night of faith and of the silence of God. Also the Holy Spirit always prays in our hearts.
In the prayer of the Virgin Mary, her docility and availability to the divine plans stand out (cf. Lk 2:19). And with her and after her, the Church, the Christian community, perseveres in prayer, together with the other three "coordinates" (preaching, charity and the Eucharist, cf. Acts 2:42), which guarantee the discernment of the action of the Holy Spirit for proclamation and service.
Dimensions of prayer
As Péguy said, the hope of the world lies in God's blessing (cf. The portico of the mystery of the second virtue, 1911). And God's greatest blessing is his own Son. The fruits of God's blessing - Francis expertly points out - can be experienced even in a prison or a detoxification center. We must all allow ourselves to be blessed and to bless others (a recurring theme in the Pope's preaching).
The model for our prayer of petition and supplication is the Our Father, so that we come to share in the mercy and tenderness of God. Thanksgiving is expanded in the encounter with Jesus (cf. Lk 17:16), especially in the Eucharist, the meaning of which is precisely thanksgiving. Even in the midst of the difficulties encountered in his mission, Jesus teaches us the prayer of praise, which breaks his heart when he contemplates how his Father favors the little ones and the simple (cf. Mt 11:25). This praise serves us, especially in dark moments, because it fills us with hope and purifies us, as St. Francis manifests in his "canticle to brother sun" or "canticle of the creatures".
The supports, the way and the forms of prayer
Prayer with the Sacred Scriptures helps us to accept the Word of God in order to make it flesh in our lives, through obedience and creativity. Likewise the Second Vatican Council taught the importance of the liturgy for prayer and for the Christian life called to be a spiritual sacrifice (cf. Rom 12:1), an offering to God and a service to others and to the world, a leaven of the Kingdom. And this, even if we are fragile.
"Prayer opens us wide to the Trinity." (General Audience, 3-III-2021). And if Jesus is the redeemer, the mediator, Mary is the one who points us to the mediator (Odighitria). Christian prayer is prayer in communion with Mary.
Good prayer is never "solitary" prayer, but diffusive prayer in the communion of saints, which includes everyday saints, hidden saints or "saints next door", with whom we are united by a "mysterious solidarity".
And the whole Church is a teacher of prayer: in the family, in the parish and in other Christian communities. Everything in the Church is born and grows in prayer, even the necessary reforms. Prayer is oil for the lamp of faith. Only with prayer can the light, the strength and the path of faith be maintained.
As far as sentence forms are concerned, the vocal sentence is a "indispensable element of the Christian life" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2701), particularly the Our Father. And not only for the smallest and simplest, but for everyone. As the years go by, prayer is like the anchor of fidelity. Like that Russian pilgrim who learned the art of prayer by repeating the same invocation: "Jesus, Christ, Son of God, Lord, have mercy on us sinners!".
Christian meditation applies itself preferentially to the mysteries of Christ and seeks an encounter with Him, with the indispensable help of the Holy Spirit. It becomes contemplative prayer when the one who prays, like the holy Curé of Ars, feels watched by God. Prayer is also a battle, sometimes hard, long and dark, which must overcome certain obstacles (discouragement, sadness and disappointment; distractions, aridity and laziness), with vigilance, hope and perseverance. Although at times it may seem that God does not grant us what we ask for, we must not lose the certainty of being heard (cf. General Audience, 26-V-2021) as seen in the case of that worker who went by train to the shrine of Luján to pray all night for his sick daughter, who was miraculously cured.
We have been "prayed" by Jesus
In short, Jesus is the model and soul of all prayer (General Audience, 2-VI-2021). We must always know that we are sustained by his prayer, in our favor before the Father.
For our part, we must persevere in prayer, knowing how to combine it with work. A prayer that nourishes our life and is nourished by it, and that keeps burning the fire of love that God expects from a Christian.
The paschal adoration of Jesus for us (cfr. General Audience16-VI-2021), in the context of his passion and death (at the Last Supper, in the garden of Gethsemane and on the cross). teaches us not only the importance of our prayer, but also that "we have been prayed for" by Jesus. "We have been beloved in Christ Jesus, and also in the hour of passion, death and resurrection all has been offered for us.". And from there must spring our hope and our strength to go forward, giving glory to God with our whole life.