L'Osservatore Romano

GENERAL AUDIENCE: On Praying Without Ceasing

“Prayer is not a magic wand. It helps to keep faith in God and to entrust ourselves to Him, even when we do not understand His will”

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Here is a ZENIT translation of the address Pope Francis gave during this morning’s general audience in St. Peter’s Square.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
The Gospel parable we just heard (cf. Luke 18:1-8) contains an important teaching: “The need to pray always and not lose heart” (v. 1). Therefore, it is not about praying sometimes, when I feel like it. No, Jesus says that we must “pray always, and not lose heart,” and He gives the example of the widow and the judge.
The judge is a powerful character, called to hand down sentences on the basis of the Law of Moses. Therefore, the biblical tradition recommended that judges be persons fearful of God, worthy of faith, impartial and incorruptible (cf. Exodus 18:21). This judge, however, “neither feared God nor regarded man” (v. 2). He was an iniquitous judge, without scruples, who did not take the Law into account but did what he wished, according to his interest. A widow comes to him to have justice. Widows, together with orphans and foreigners, were the weakest categories of the society. The rights ensured to them by the Law could be easily trampled because, being persons alone and without defense, they could hardly make themselves heard.: a poor widow, there, alone, no one defended her; they could ignore her, also not give her justice. The same with the orphan, so also the foreigner, the migrant; at that time this problem was very strong. In face of the judge’s indifference, the widow takes recourse to her only weapon: to continue insistently to importune him, presenting him her request for justice. And, precisely with this perseverance, she accomplishes her purpose. At a certain point, in fact, at a certain point the judge listens to her, not because he is moved by mercy, or because his conscience imposed it on him; he simply admits: ”because this widow bothers me, I will vindicate her, or she will wear me out by her continual coming” (v. 5).
Jesus draws a twofold conclusion from this parable: if the widow succeeded in bending the dishonest judge with her insistent requests, how much more God, who is a good and just Father, “will vindicate His elect, who cry to Him day and night?.” And, moreover, “He will vindicate them speedily” (vv. 7-8).
Therefore, Jesus exhorts to pray “without losing heart.” We all experience moments of tiredness and discouragement, especially when our prayer seems ineffective. But Jesus assures us: as opposed to the dishonest judge, God speedily listens to His children even if He does not do so in the times and ways that we wish. Prayer is not a magic wand. It helps to keep faith in God and to entrust ourselves to Him, even when we do not understand His will.
In this Jesus Himself – who prayed so much! – is our example. The Letter to the Hebrews reminds us that “In the days of His flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to Him who was able to save Him from death, and He was heard for His godly fear (5:7). At first sight this affirmation seems unlikely, because Jesus died on the cross. Yet the Letter to the Hebrews is not mistaken: God truly saved Jesus from death giving Him complete victory over it, but the way followed to obtain it passed through death itself! The reference to the supplication that God heard refers to Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane. Assailed by imminent anguish, Jesus prays to the Father to let the bitter chalice of the Passion pass from Him, but His prayer is pervaded by trust in the Father and He entrusts Himself to His will without reservations: “Nevertheless – says Jesus – not as I will, but as Thou wilt” (Matthew 26:39). The object of the prayer passes to the second plane; what matters first of all is His relation with the Father. See what prayer does: it transforms the desire and moulds it according to God’s will, whatever it is, because one who prays aspires first of all to union with Him, merciful Love.
The parable ends with a question: “Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, will He find faith on earth?” (v. 8). And, with this question, we are all put on guard: we must not desist from prayer even if it is not requited. It is prayer that preserves faith; without it, faith vacillates! Let us ask the Lord for a faith that makes itself incessant, perseverant prayer, as that of the widow of the parable, a faith that is nourished by the desire of His coming. And, in prayer, we experience God’s compassion that, as a Father, comes to meet His children full of merciful love.
[Original text: Italian]  [Translation by ZENIT]
Dear Italian-speaking pilgrims: welcome!
I greet the Sisters of Our Lady of the Cenacle, on the occasion of their General Chapter; the “Small Charity Work” Foundation with the Bishop of Teramo-Atri, Monsignor Michele Seccia. I greet the Sisters of the Mater Ecclesiae Missionary College of Castel Gandolfo, leaving for their countries; the parish groups, particularly the faithful of Sotto il Monte Giovanni XXIII and the guests of the Sanatrix rehabilitation center of Eboli. I invite you to live the Jubilee of Mercy with faith: may the crossing of the Holy Door increase in all the sense of belonging to the Church and the necessity of works of mercy towards brothers.
A special thought goes to young people, the sick and newlyweds. Today we celebrate the memory of Pope Saint Gregory VII. May his love for the Lord indicate to you, dear young people the importance of the relationship with God in your life; may it encourage you, dear sick, to face with faith the moments of suffering; may it stimulate you, dear newlyweds, to educate in a Christian way the children the Lord might wish to give you.
[Original text: Italian}  [Translation by ZENIT]
Observed today is International Missing Children’s Day. It is a duty of all to protect children, especially those exposed to a high risk of exploitation, trafficking and devious conduct. I hope that the civil and religious Authorities are able to shake and sensitize consciences, to avoid indifference in face of the hardship of children who are alone, exploited and removed from their families and their social context; children who cannot grow serenely and look to the future with hope. I invite all to prayer so that each one of them is restored to the affection of his dear ones.
Tomorrow, at Rome, we will live the traditional procession of Corpus Domini. I will celebrate Mass at 7:00 pm in Saint John Lateran and then we will adore the Most Blessed Sacrament, walking to the Basilica of Saint Mary Major. I invite Romans and pilgrims to take part in this solemn public ceremony of faith and of love for Jesus truly present in the Eucharist.
[Original text: Italian]  [Translation by ZENIT]
Last Monday some terrorist attacks happened in Syria, which caused the death of some hundred defenseless civilians. I exhort all to pray to the merciful Father and to Our Lady that eternal rest be granted to the victims, consolation to their families and conversion of heart to all those that sow death and destruction.
[Hail Mary …]
[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]

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