When the Church Prays for the Poor, For What Do We Pray?

“If the prayer we make for the poor does not move us to work creatively for them, we are doing something wrong.”

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I come from Mexico, a country of 120 million inhabitants that, according to official figures of the year 2012, has close to 52 million poor. Perhaps because of this I have been asked to share with you a brief reflection entitled: “When the Church prays for the poor, for what exactly do we pray? For what do we ask?”

I will share with you some brief ideas which will help us to reflect.

God is the source of all good; He is the only richest one because He has everything and lacks nothing , He has everything, including the fullness of love to create the world, to make a dwelling for us, His beloved children.

However, God has seen how we get lost and, to rescue us, He left his divine condition, stripped Himself of His richness to rescue us and make us like Himself. God chose a sign of love for us to return to the right way, enamored of Him who is able to leave the splendor of His divinity to rescue us (Philippians 2:6ff), and His poverty is a sign of love.

Poverty was embraced by God in a gesture of love, to become like men. Christ’s poverty is a call to the good way for all men and women of history. And those who wish to find Him must follow the way of “abandonment” of the mistaken way to return to the path that He traces for us; they must impoverish themselves in some way. This Christ who was asked “are you the Messiah or must we wait for another?” answered “see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk … and the poor have good news preached to them” (Matthew 11:5) and then He said: “as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40).

So He drew the attention of believers to charity, to find in the needy, in the poor, other Christs, and it all stems from what we do to them, which “we do to Christ Himself.”

What do we ask for when we pray for the poor?

When we pray for the poor, we ask God to make His Providence present, and sometimes we do so hoping that a miracle will happen. At other times we hope that large businesses will curb their profits so that there are fewer poor, or at least that someone might help the poor.

When we pray for the poor we also ask God to give strength to the needy to endure their misery. Obviously we ask God for virtues for all but, in reality, this is an intention that not only has them in view but also ourselves … “we ask You, Lord, for the poor” is the same as saying … “I ask You, Lord for the gift of being able to see You in the needy,” “I ask You that I may be able to do something for them with my charity.”

The true prayer for the poor begins with compassion, suffering with them, and this compassionate prayer alone helps us to understand the real meaning of poverty.

To pray for the poor is to ask God’s help to participate in our countries in what is required so that there is justice for them.

To pray for the poor is to elect authorities who truly seek peace and justice.

To pray for the poor is not to be indifferent to the different forms of poverty, well articulated by Pope Francis in his Lenten Message for 2014: there is material poverty, moral poverty and spiritual poverty.

To pray for the poor is to learn to share the gifts we have received from God.

No one is so poor that he has nothing to give. I have the example of a group of poor women in my country; they are from Veracruz and for years they have organized themselves to give food to South American migrants who go across Mexico to reach the United States.

When we pray for the poor, we must remember that we are administrators of the goods we receive. The great problem of poverty is not only the lack of goods, but the poor distribution of them.

The way to pray for the poor

As with every prayer, the prayer of the Church for the poor must be made primarily with confidence, knowing that God, who is our Father, will never abandon us.

However, the main component of prayer for the poor is solidarity, which is a face of charity.

As the Good Samaritan did, seeing in the needy the face of the Lord.

If the prayer we make for the poor does not move us to work creatively for them, we are doing something wrong.

At this time the Church has in the figure of Pope Francis a clear guide for the Christian attitude in face of poverty – individually, loving an austere, simple life. Socially, denouncing the injustices of the throw away culture, and sharing with generosity all that we have received.

The Christian communication of goods dictates that none of us can enjoy the superfluous while there are those who lack necessities.


Ana Maria Jiménez Ortiz is a Mexican congresswoman and campaigner for the protection of the family unit in Mexico. This is the text of a talk she gave at the Third Annual Conference of the Dignitatis Humanae Institute, held at the Casina Pio IV in the Vatican Gardens, June 26-29. The theme for this year’s conference was “Poverty and the Common Good: Putting the ‘Preferential Option for the Poor’ at the Service of Human Dignity”.

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Ana Maria Jimenez Ortiz

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