Pope: Go to the 'School of Jesus to Learn How to Pray'

Holy Father says the desire to know God is "inscribed on every human heart."

(photo: Shutterstock)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — People of every epoch and in every culture have prayed because human beings have always recognized that there is something greater than themselves in the universe, Pope Benedict XVI said.

“Human life is a mix of good and bad, of undeserved suffering and of joy and beauty, which spontaneously and irresistibly push us to ask God for light and interior strength,” to save us in this life and assure us that there is life beyond the grave, the Pope said May 4 at his weekly general audience.

Under a banner of Blessed Pope John Paul II still hanging from the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Benedict began a new series of audience talks about prayer.

“We want to learn to live more intensely our relationship with the Lord” through prayer, he said. “Even those very advanced in the spiritual life feel a constant need to put themselves in the school of Jesus to learn how to pray.”

Pope Benedict began the series by explaining that examples of attempts to pray can be found even in classical pagan cultures. The ancient Egyptian prayers tended to focus on pleas for help from on high and those of ancient Mesopotamia were characterized by an acknowledgment of human guilt and a search for mercy, he said. The ancient Greeks, such as Socrates and Plato, showed a shift from seeking personal favors to requesting assistance in being wise and good.

The ancient pagan pleas “demonstrate that human life without prayer, which opens our existence to the mystery of God, becomes meaningless and lacks a point of reference,” the Pope said.

Every prayer, he said, shows two basic truths about the human person: his or her experience of a need for help and his or her “extraordinary dignity” as a being “able to enter into communion with God.”

The desire for a relationship with God is “inscribed on every human heart,” he said, and the keys to entering into such a relationship are found in the Bible.

It is only “in Jesus that human beings become able to draw close to God with the depth and intimacy of sons and daughters,” he said. “Let us ask the Lord to enlighten our minds and hearts so that our relationship with him in prayer will be increasingly intense, affectionate and constant.”