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Pope Reminds Christians to Pray in Secret

‘”Jesus doesn’t want hypocrisy’

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It may not be a secret that a Christian prays, but the best way for a Christian to pray is in secret.
Pope Francis made that point on February 13, 2019, during his continuing course on the “Our Father” at his general audience in Paul VI Hall. He reminded the pilgrims present from around the world that Jesus rejects hypocrisy.
“We must pray as He taught us to do so. He said: when you pray, enter in the silence of your room, withdraw from the world, and turn to God calling Him ‘Father!’  Jesus wants His disciples not to be as the hypocrites, who pray standing upright in the Squares to be admired by the people (Cf. Matthew 6:5),” the Holy Father stressed.
“Jesus doesn’t want hypocrisy. True prayer is that which is made in the secret of the conscience, of the heart: inscrutable, visible only to God – God and me. It shuns falsehood: it’s impossible to feign with God. It’s impossible.”
This isn’t to suggest, the Pope continued, that prayer is just about the individual. Prayer in secret doesn’t mean focusing prayer on oneself.
“Yet, despite the disciple’s prayer being wholly confidential, it never falls into ‘intimism’.” the Pope said. “In the secret of his conscience, a Christian doesn’t leave the world outside the door of his room but carries persons and situations in his heart, their problems, so many things, all are taken to prayer.”
The Holy Father also pointed out that there is a word that doesn’t appear in the “Our Father,” although it is a word used constantly these days. In fact, he called the omission of this word “an impressive absence.”
“Think what is missing. A word, a word that in our times — but perhaps always — everyone holds in great consideration. What is the word that is lacking in the ‘Our Father’ that we pray every day? To save time, I’ll say it: the word ‘I’ is lacking. ‘I’ is never said.”
The Holy Father noted that “you” is very much present in the prayer: your name, your will, your kingdom.
“Why? — because in the dialogue with God there is no room for individualism,” the Pope answered. “There is no ostentation of our own problems as if we were the only ones suffering in the world. There is no prayer elevated to God that isn’t the prayer of a community of brothers and sisters, the ‘us’: we are in community; we are brothers and sisters; we are a people that prays, ‘we’.”
Francis recalled a lesson he once learned from a prison chaplain who asked the Pope what is the opposite of “I”. The Pope (confessing today he was naive) said it was “you”. But the priest corrected him, noting that the opposite of “I” is “we”.
“We can ask ourselves: when I pray, do I open myself to the cry of so many close and distant persons? Or do I think of prayer as a sort of anesthesia, to be able to be more tranquil? I throw out the question there; each one answer to himself. In this case, I would be a victim of a terrible mistake. My prayer would certainly no longer be a Christian prayer, because that “us,” which Jesus taught us, impedes me from being in peace on my own, and makes me feel responsible for my brothers and sisters.”
The Holy Father’s Full Commentary

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Jim Fair

Jim Fair is a husband, father, grandfather, writer, and communications consultant. He also likes playing the piano and fishing. He writes from the Chicago area.

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