Pope Francis: Christian Prayer Instills ‘Invincible Hope’ in the Human Heart
When we welcome each day in prayer, Pope Francis said, we are given the gift of courage.
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis said on Wednesday that prayer can fortify us as we face the challenges of daily life.
Speaking at his general audience on Feb. 10, the pope explained that prayer helps us to see the “infinite grace” that lies beyond the visible world.
“And thus, Christian prayer instills an invincible hope in the human heart: whatever experience we touch on our journey, God’s love can turn it into good,” he said.
In his address, he continued the cycle of catechesis on prayer which he launched in May and resumed in October following nine reflections on healing the world after the pandemic.
He dedicated Wednesday’s audience — the 24th address in this catechetical cycle — to praying in daily life. The audience took place in the library of the Apostolic Palace due to coronavirus restrictions.
The pope noted that at his last general audience he had highlighted the importance of liturgical prayer.
He said: “Today, we will shed light on how the Liturgy always enters daily life: on the streets, in offices, on public transportation… And there it continues the dialogue with God: the person who prays is like someone in love who always bears the beloved in his or her heart wherever they go.”
“Essentially, everything becomes a part of this dialogue with God: every joy becomes a reason for praise, every trial is an opportunity to ask for help. Prayer is always alive in our lives, like embers, even when the mouth does not speak, but the heart speaks. Every thought, even the apparently ‘profane’ ones, can be permeated by prayer.”
He compared prayer to a light that illuminates the path ahead of us when it lies in shadow.
Quoting from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, he said: “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; it is in the present that we encounter him, not yesterday or tomorrow, but today.”
He commented: “There exists no other wonderful day than the day we are living. Those who live always thinking about the future, in the future: ‘But it will be better…’ but do not take each day as it comes: these are people who live in their fantasy, they do not know how to deal with concrete reality. And today is real, today is concrete. And prayer is to be done today. Jesus comes to meet us today, the day we are living.”
When we welcome each day in prayer, he said, we are given the gift of courage.
“Thus, the problems we face no longer seem to be obstacles to our happiness, but appeals from God, opportunities to meet Him. And when a person is accompanied by the Lord, he or she feels more courageous, freer, and even happier,” he said.
“Let us pray always, then, for everyone, even for our enemies. Jesus counseled us to do this ... Let us pray for our dear ones, even those we do not know.”
He continued: “Prayer inclines us toward a superabundant love. Let us pray above all for people who are sad, for those who weep in solitude and despair, that there still might be someone who loves them.”
He stressed that Christian prayer “makes Christ’s compassion present.”
“Prayer helps us love others, despite their mistakes and sins,” he said. “The person is always more important than their actions, and Jesus did not judge the world, but He saved it.”
“What a horrible life is that of the person who always judges others, who is always condemning, judging… This is a horrible, unhappy life, when Jesus came to save us.”
He added: “Open your heart, pardon, give others the benefit of the doubt, understand, be close to others, be compassionate, be tender, like Jesus. We need to love each and every person, remembering in prayer that we are all sinners and at the same time loved individually by God.”
“Loving the world in this way, loving it with tenderness, we will discover that each day and everything bears within it a fragment of God’s mystery.”
He then reflected on the brevity of human life, citing the 17th-century French Catholic philosopher Blaise Pascal, who said: “There is no need for the whole universe to take up arms to crush him: a vapor, a drop of water is enough to kill him.”
The pope concluded: “We are fragile beings, but we know how to pray: this is our greatest dignity and it is also our strength. Have courage. Pray in every moment, in every situation so the Lord might be near to us. And when a prayer is said according to the heart of Jesus, it obtains miracles.”
As summaries of the pope’s catechesis were read out in French, English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, and Polish, he offered short messages to Catholics belonging to the different language groups.
In his greeting to Spanish-speakers, the pope observed that Feb. 11 is the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, patroness of the sick.
He said: “Let us ask through her intercession that the Lord may grant health of soul and body to all those who suffer from illness and the current pandemic, and may he strengthen those who assist and accompany them in this time of trial that they are going through in their lives.”
Before offering a final greeting to Italian-speaking Catholics, the pope prayed for victims of a disaster in northern India. Part of the Nanda Devi glacier broke off on Sunday, Feb. 7, in the state of Uttarakhand, killing at least 32 people and leaving more than 170 people missing.
“I express my closeness to the victims of the calamity that happened three days ago in the north of India, where part of a glacier separated itself, provoking violent flooding that devastated the construction sites of two power plants,” the pope said.
“I pray for the workers who died and for their families and for all those who were harmed and wounded.”
Before ending the audience with the Our Father and Apostolic Blessing, the pope noted that on Friday, Feb. 12, people around the world will celebrate the Lunar New Year.
“To all of them and to their families, I wish to express my heartfelt greetings, together with the wish that the new year might bear the fruit of fraternity and solidarity,” he said.
“At this particular time, in which we are very concerned about facing the challenges of the pandemic that touches people physically and spiritually, but also influences social relationships, I express the hope that everyone might enjoy complete health and serenity of life.”
“Lastly, while I invite that we pray for the gift of peace and every other good, I would like to remind everyone that these are obtained through goodness, respect, far-sightedness, and courage. Never forget to give preference to caring for the poorest and the weakest.”