By Robin Gomes
In last week’s General Audience, Pope Francis spoke about how Christian prayer is “anchored” in the liturgy. In this week’s audience, streamed live from the Library of the Apostolic Palace, he explains how prayer returns from the liturgy to the daily situations of life, such as on the streets, in offices and on public transport.
“Essentially, everything becomes a part of this dialogue with God,” which is prayer. “Every joy becomes a reason for praise, every trial is an opportunity to ask for help,” he says. “Prayer,” according to the Pope, “is always alive in life, like embers of fire... Even when the mouth does not speak, the heart talks.”
Every thought, even apparently “profane” ones, can be permeated by prayer, "which illuminates the few steps in front of us and then opens up to the entire reality that precedes it and surpasses it."
"Christian prayer instills an invincible hope in the human heart," the Pope said, adding, “whatever experience we touch on our journey, God’s love can turn it into good."
Praying in the present, today
In this regard, Pope Francis cites the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which says, “We learn to pray at certain moments by hearing the Word of the Lord and sharing in his Paschal Mystery, but His Spirit is offered us at all times, in the events of each day, to make prayer spring up from us”. “Time is in the Father’s hands,” says the Catechism, stressing, “It is in the present that we encounter Him, not yesterday or tomorrow, but today.”
The Pope notes there are people who look to the future without taking today as it comes. They live in a world of fantasy and don’t know how to live the concrete reality of today.
Prayer transforms us
The Pope says it is prayer that transforms the today we are living into grace — or rather, it transforms us.
Prayer “appeases anger, sustains love, multiplies joy, and instills the strength to forgive." Grace lives and works in us; the problems we face no longer seem to be obstacles to our happiness, but appeals from God, opportunities to encounter Him.
"When you have an angry or unhappy thought that brings bitterness," the Pope exhorts, "you should stop and turn to God. The Lord, who is there, will give you the right word and advice in order to go ahead without this negative bitterness. When one is accompanied by the Lord, he or she feels more courageous, freer and also happier."
Who to pray for?
The Holy Father invites Christians to pray always, not just for our dear ones but for everyone, even those we do not know. “Let us pray even for our enemies as the Scriptures often invite us to do,” he says, adding, “prayer inclines us toward an overabundant love.”
He invites us to pray for those who are sad, and for those who weep in solitude and despair, wondering whether there is still anyone who loves them. The prayer of a Christian, Pope Francis points out, works miracles by making present the compassion of Christ for the poor.
Jesus, in fact, looked with great tenderness on the weary and lost crowd who were like sheep without a shepherd. Compassion, closeness, and tenderness, he stresses, are the Lord’s "style."
We are all sinners loved by God
Pope Francis further explains that prayer helps us love others, despite their mistakes and sins, stressing that the person is always more important than their actions. And Jesus did just that. He did not judge the world but saved it.
The Holy Father wonders how bad and unhappy life must be for those who always judge and condemn others. Instead, open your hearts, forgive, justify others, be close to others, have compassion and tenderness like Jesus, he urges.
“We need to love each and every person,” the Pope continues, and to remind ourselves that we are all sinners and “at the same time loved individually by God.” This way, “we will discover that every day and everything bears within it a fragment of God’s mystery.”
God’s kingdom of justice and peace
The Catechism further points out that “it is right and good to pray so that the coming of the kingdom of justice and peace may influence the march of history.” But for this to happen, “it important to bring the help of prayer into humble, everyday situations; all forms of prayer can be the leaven to which the Lord compares the kingdom.”
In conclusion, Pope Francis notes that we are fragile beings, but we know how to pray, which is our greatest dignity as well as our strength. “Pray in every moment and in every situation because the Lord is near,” he urges.
“And when a prayer is said according to the heart of Jesus, that prayer obtains miracles.”