At his weekly General Audience on 13 May, Pope Francis reflected on the essential characteristics of prayer in his catechesis, and described prayer as universal, intimate, and entirely trusting in God. He said prayer is common to all people, no matter what their religion, and ‘probably even to those who profess no religion.’ In fact, the Pope recently demonstrated the universality of prayer. He invited people of all religions to take part in a day of prayer on Thursday 14 May to implore God for an end to the coronavirus pandemic.
Prayer flows from our heart: In his catechesis, Pope Francis said prayer involves the most intimate mystery of our being. Christian writers have always said prayer is ‘born within the secrecy of our beings, in that interior place called the “heart”.’ Our emotions, intelligence, and body all participate in prayer, though prayer cannot be identified with any one aspect of our being. ‘Every part of the human person prays,’ he said.
God is not shrouded in mystery: Prayer, said Pope Francis, is a yearning that takes us beyond ourselves as we seek some “other”. It is an “I” in search of a “You”. A Christian’s prayer, he added, begins with the revelation that the “You” we seek is not shrouded in mystery. “Christianity is the religion that continually celebrates the ‘manifestation’ of God, His epiphany.”
Intimate relationship: God has revealed Himself to us in His Son, Jesus Christ. So the prayer of a Christian brings us into relationship with God, without any fear or trepidation. ‘Christianity has banished any type of “feudal” relationship from the connection with God,’ he said.
Tendencies toward subjection or vassalage, said Pope Francis, are replaced with friendship, covenant, and communion. ‘God is the friend, the ally, the bridegroom. ‘One can establish a relationship built on confidence with Him in prayer.’
Trusting wholly in God: Pope Francis went on to say that Jesus taught us to approach God with trust, calling him ‘Our Father’. “We can ask God for anything, explain everything, tell Him everything.”
Whatever our situation or perception of our lowliness, we know that God is always faithful, and embraces us with mercy. “God is the faithful ally: if men and women cease to love, He continues to love, even if love leads Him to Calvary.”
Mystery of the Covenant: Pope Francis concluded his catechesis with an invitation to enter into ‘the mystery of the Covenant’. “Let us place ourselves in prayer between the merciful arms of God to feel embraced by that mystery of happiness which is the Trinitarian life, to feel like those who are invited but have not merited such an honour.”
As we remain with God in prayer, he said, let us repeat with awe: “Is it possible that You know love alone?”
(Based on a report compiled by Devin Watkins)