Taking up the theme of prayer in the letters of St. Paul, Benedict XVI reflected on the essential role of the Holy Spirit for those who wish to communicate with God. The Pope spoke of prayer not primarily as a fruit of human effort, but as a gift, "the fruit of the living, vivifying presence of the Father of Jesus Christ in us."
Speaking extemporaneously, the Holy Father reflected on the human desire for prayer: "We want to pray, but God is far off, we do not have the words, the language, to speak with God, nor even the thought to do so. We can only open ourselves, place our time at God’s disposition, wait for Him to help us to enter into true dialogue. The Apostle says: this very lack of words, this absence of words, yet this desire to enter into contact with God, is prayer that the Holy Spirit not only understands, but brings and interprets before God. This very weakness of ours becomes -- through the Holy Spirit -- true prayer, true contact with God. The Holy Spirit is, as it were, the interpreter who makes us, and God, understand what it is we wish to say."
The Pontiff suggested that prayer brings us to understand more than in other aspects of life that we are weak, poor creatures. "And the more we advance in listening and in dialogue with God, so that prayer becomes the daily breath of our souls, the more we also perceive the measure of our limitations, not only in the face of the concrete situations of everyday life, but also in our relationship with the Lord," he said.
But again, "it is the Holy Spirit who helps our inability, who enlightens our minds and warms our hearts, guiding us as we turn to God. For St. Paul, prayer is above all the work of the Holy Spirit in our humanity, to take our weakness and to transform us from men bound to material realities into spiritual men."
Benedict XVI drew from Paul's teaching three consequences for our Christian lives "when we allow the Spirit of Christ, and not the spirit of the world, to work in us as the interior principle of all our actions."
- First, he said, prayer animated by the Spirit "enables us to abandon and to overcome every form of fear and slavery, and so to experience the true freedom of the children of God."
- "A second consequence that comes about in our lives when we allow the Spirit of Christ to work in us is that our relationship with God becomes so deep that it cannot be affected by any circumstance or situation," the Holy Father continued. "We then come to understand that, through prayer, we are not delivered from trials or sufferings, but we are able to live them in union with Christ, with His sufferings, with a view to participating also in His glory."
- Finally, the Pontiff reflected, "the prayer of the believer opens out to the dimensions of humanity and of the whole creation. [...] This means that prayer, sustained by the Spirit of Christ who speaks in our interior depths, never remains closed in upon itself, it is never only prayer for me; rather, it opens out to a sharing in the suffering of our time, of others. It becomes intercession for others, and thus freedom for me; a channel of hope for all creation and the expression of that love of God, which has been poured into our hearts through the Spirit who has been given to us.
And this is a sign of true prayer, that it does not end in ourselves, but opens out to others and so liberates me, and so helps in the redemption of the world." The full text of his comments can be found at www.zenit.org/article-34792?l=english.
From Catechetical Weekly, a publication of the National Conferecne for Catechetical Leadership. May 21, 2012. www.nccl.org