VATICAN CITY, APR. 4, 2001 ( During his midweek general audience, John Paul II pointed out how Christians can sprinkle their day with simple moments of intense prayer.

The Pope extolled the Psalms, a legacy of the Jews and used by Jesus´ first disciples. "When singing the Psalms," he said, "the Christian experiences a kind of unity between the Spirit, present in the Scriptures, and the Spirit dwelling in him through baptismal grace."

Fifteen thousand pilgrims gathered to hear the Pontiff at the audience this morning. His address was the second in a series of catecheses on the Psalms and Canticles. Today he focused on their role within the Liturgy of the Hours.

John Paul II referred to the first years of Christianity, and to Jerusalem in particular, when there was a close relation "between Christian and so-called legal prayers -- that is, prescribed by the Mosaic law -- which took place at specific hours of the day in the Temple of Jerusalem."

The Acts of the Apostles, he said, explains how the Apostles "attended the Temple together" and "went up to the Temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. Moreover, the "legal prayers par excellence were, precisely, those of the morning and evening," he added.

"Gradually, Jesus´ disciples identified some Psalms that were particularly appropriate for specific times of the day, week and year, grasping their profound meaning in relation to the Christian mystery," the Holy Father explained.

This prayer became so important, he added, that the ancient monks "were convinced that their faith would allow a singular ´energy´ of the Holy Spirit to burst forth from the verses of the Psalms." Thus they became the public prayer of the Church.

The Pontiff continued, "Christian prayer is born, nourished and develops around the paschal mystery of Christ, the event of faith par excellence. Thus, in the morning and the evening, at the dawning and setting of the sun, Easter, the Lord´s passage from death to life, was remembered."

"The hours of the day recall, in turn, the account of the Lord´s Passion, and the third hour also [recalls] the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost," he added.

By distributing prayer in this way, "Christians respond to the Lord´s command to ´pray incessantly,´ but without forgetting that the whole of life must be in some way a prayer," the Pope said.