Pope Benedict XVI says he has been sustained during his seven years as Pontiff by the prayers of people around the world.
“From the first moment of my election as the Successor of St. Peter, I have always felt supported by the prayers of you all, by the prayer of the Church, especially by your prayers at moments of greatest difficulty, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart,” he told pilgrims in St. Peter's Square during his May 9 general audience.
“Unanimous and constant prayer is a precious instrument in overcoming all of the trials that may arise in the path of life, because it is our being deeply united with God that allows us to also be deeply united to others,” the Pope said before thanking everyone again.
Pope Benedict’s prepared remarks for the day focused on the prayer life of the early Church, continuing a series of teachings he has been giving. This morning, along with approximately 10,000 pilgrims, he examined the episode in the life of his predecessor, St. Peter, who was released from imprisonment by an angel on the eve of his trial in Jerusalem.
“The strength of the unceasing prayer of the Church rises to God, and the Lord hears and carries out an unthinkable and unhoped-for deliverance, sending his angel,” he said.
The liberation of Peter has overtones of both the Jewish exodus from slavery in Egypt and the resurrection of Christ, the Pope noted. It also highlights “a pressing invitation” to follow Christ, since “only by coming out of yourself in order to start walking with the Lord and doing his will will you experience true freedom.”
Pope Benedict also noted that even though Peter was in “such a critical and dangerous situation,” the Acts of the Apostles informs us that he was asleep and had to be woken by the angel.
“This attitude may seem odd, but it denotes trust and confidence: He trusts in God; he knows he is surrounded by the solidarity and support of his followers and abandons himself totally into the hands of Lord,” the Pope said. “This is how our prayer must be: assiduous, united with others, an expression of complete trust in God, who knows us in our most intimate selves and looks after us.”
Pope Benedict concluded by saying that the story of the liberation of Peter “tells us that the Church, each of us, goes through the night of trial, but it is the unceasing vigilance of prayer that sustains us.”
For this reason, he taught, every believer should cultivate a “constant and trusting” prayer in the Lord, who “frees us from our chains and guides us. ... He gives us serenity of heart to face the difficulties of life, even rejection, opposition and persecution.”