VATICAN CITY, DEC. 12, 2001 ( John Paul II says that prayer cannot be understood without first appreciating the language of love.

"Prayer is not adverse to repetition, as someone who is in love does not hesitate to repeatedly express his affection for the beloved," the Pope told thousands of pilgrims attending the midweek general audience in the Vatican.

Thus he continued his yearlong series of meditations on the Psalms and canticles of the Bible, which Christians pray in the Liturgy of the Hours. The text chosen on this occasion was the hymn raised by the three youths condemned to be burned to death in a furnace.

The Book of Daniel recounts how God saved the Maccabean youths from the torment ordered by King Nebuchadnezzar in the second century B.C. Their words of blessing and thanksgiving still inspire prayer today.

"This hymn is similar to a litany, repetitive but at the same time new: Its invocations rise to God like billowing incense, which fills the atmosphere in similar but unique ways," the Pontiff explained.

In his prayer, the believer also repeats his praise to God, because to "emphasize the same things is a sign of intensity and of the multiple nuances of interior feelings and affections," John Paul II added.

The Christian is conscious of the fact that, with his death and resurrection, Jesus opened the "new heavens and a new earth," and "a different, renewed man comes into being in the image of his creator through the birth from on high," the Pope continued.

"Thus, in singing this canticle the Christian believer is invited to contemplate the world of the first creation, intuiting the outline of the second, inaugurated with the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus," the Holy Father concluded.