Prayer changes us our heart. It helps us better understand our God. This is why it is important to speak with the Lord, not with empty words - Jesus says: 'As pagans do'. No, no, talk with [Him about] reality: 'Look , Lord, I have this problem, in my family, with my child, with this, with that ... What can you do? You cannot leave me like this!'. This is prayer! Does this prayer take a long time? Yes, it takes time.It takes the time we need to get to know God better,[the same time we take] with a friend, because Moses - the Bible says - prays to the Lord like one friend speaking to another.- Pope Francis
VATICAN CITY (Catholic Online) - On Thursday, April 3, 2014, Pope Francis gave his daily homily in the Chapel of St. Martha. The first reading contained the account of Moses contending with the Lord after the people had turned away from God and began to worship the Golden Calf, incurring the judgment of God. (Exodus 32:7-14)
The Holy Father is a man who understands prayer because he lives in it. He really prays. He has discovered that we really can pray throughout the entire day. He wants us to find the same treasure. In his homily he broke open the relationship between Moses and the Lord in a simple but profound way in order to teach us how to pray, and expose us to the entire myriad of ways in which prayer can be expressed.
He told the faithful: this prayer is a real struggle with God. A struggle [on the part of] the leader of a people to save his people, who are the people of God . Moses speaks freely in front of the Lord and in doing so teaches us how to pray without fear, freely, even with insistence.
Moses insists. He is courageous. Prayer must also be a "negotiation with God", to which we bring our "arguments". Moses eventually convinces God and the reading says that "the Lord repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to His people". But who changed here? Has the Lord changed? I think not.
Moses is the one who has changed, because Moses believed that the Lord would do this, he believed that the Lord would have destroyed the people and he searches, he tries to remember, how good the Lord has been to His people, how he led them from slavery in Egypt and guided them with a promise.
With these arguments, he tries to convince God, but in doing so, he rediscovers the memory of his people, and God's mercy. This Moses, who was afraid, afraid that God would do this thing, in the end comes down from the mountain with a something great in his heart: Our God is merciful. He knows how to forgive. He can go back on His decisions. He is a Father".
Moses knew all of this, "but he vaguely knew it. Instead he rediscovers it in prayer. This is what prayer does to us: it changes our heart".
Prayer changes us our heart. It helps us better understand our God. This is why it is important to speak with the Lord, not with empty words - Jesus says: 'As pagans do'. No, no, talk with [Him about] reality: 'Look , Lord, I have this problem, in my family, with my child, with this, with that ... What can you do? You cannot leave me like this!'. This is prayer! Does this prayer take a long time? Yes, it takes time.
It takes the time we need to get to know God better,[the same time we take] with a friend, because Moses - the Bible says - prays to the Lord like one friend speaking to another:
The Bible says that Moses spoke to God face to face, as a friend. This is how our prayer must be: free, insistent, with arguments. Even rebuking the Lord a little': 'You promised me this but you didn't do it... ' , just like talking with a friend. Open your heart to this prayer.
Moses came down from the Mount invigorated: ' I have known more of the Lord ' , and with that strength given him by prayer, he resumed the task of leading his people to the Promised Land. Because prayer invigorates: it is invigorating. May the Lord give us all this grace, because prayer is a grace".
The Holy Spirit is in every prayer. You cannot pray without the Holy Spirit . It is He who prays in us, He makes us change our heart, it is He who teaches us to call God 'Father'. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to teach us to pray, as Moses prayed, to negotiate with God, with freedom of spirit, with courage. And may the Holy Spirit, who is always present in our prayer, lead us on this path".
See what I mean? We have a man of real prayer in the Chair of Peter who is teaching us all how to really pray.
St. Paul wrote to the early Christians in Greece. Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. (1 Thess. 5:16-19)
They did not live lives of ease, in any sense of the word. They had families, occupations, and struggles beyond what many of us could imagine. They suffered greatly for their faith. He instructed them to "Pray without ceasing".
Did he really mean it? I believe he did. Prayer is an ongoing dialogue of intimate communion with God that makes life different. God fashioned men and women as the crown of His creation, creating us in "His Image", for this loving, relational conversation of life with Him.
At the heart of understanding what it means to be "in His Image" is to understand the immense gift of human freedom and what has happened to our capacity to choose properly. Love is never coerced. Love is freely given and freely received.
Our relationship with God was broken, separated and wounded through the first sin, the sin of origins or "original sin". That sin, like all sin since, is at root a misuse of freedom infected by pride and self sufficiency.
Our ability to exercise our freedom rightly, to live in His Image by directing our capacity for free choice always toward the true and the good, was impeded through that fall. You can say that our freedom was fractured. The only way it can be healed and restored is through applying the splint of the Cross and the healing oil of the Holy Spirit.
The Good News is that through Jesus Christ, our fractured freedom can indeed be healed. The way has been opened for us to have an even fuller communion with God than our first parents did before the Fall; a communion restored through the Incarnation - the Saving life, Death, Resurrection and Ascension - of Jesus Christ the Savior.
In Jesus Christ we are being re-created, re-fashioned and redeemed. The Christian life is an invitation to conversion, to being made new. It involves our entire life and then opens into eternity. Life is a classroom of communion and encounter with the Lord. He comes to live in all who make a place for Him within the center of their lives and their lifestyles. This making a place is the essence of Christian prayer.
Prayer is not about doing, but about being, in a continual and growing communion with God. Jesus said, "If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him." (John 14: 21 - 23) The Lord wants us to freely choose to respond His continual invitations to love. By the power of the Holy Spirit at work in every believer, he gives us new eyes to see Him, new ears to hear His voice and new hearts within which He can make His home.
We will find our fulfillment as human persons only in communion with the Lord. This is the meaning and purpose of life itself. As we grow in faith through our participation in the life of grace, lived out in the Church, our capacity to respond to His loving invitation grows, through prayer.
Prayer is about falling in love with God. Isaac of Ninevah was an early eighth century monk, Bishop and theologian. For centuries he was mostly revered in the Eastern Christian Church for his writings on prayer. In the last century the beauty of his insights on prayer are being embraced once again by both lungs, East and West, of the Church. He wrote these words in one of his many treatises on Prayer:
When the Spirit dwells in a person, from the moment in which that person has become prayer, he never leaves him. For the Spirit himself never ceases to pray in him. Whether the person is asleep or awake, prayer never from then on departs from his soul. Whether he is eating or drinking or sleeping or whatever else he is doing, even in deepest sleep, the fragrance of prayer rises without effort in his heart.
Prayer never again deserts him. At every moment of his life, even when it appears to stop, it is secretly at work in him continuously, one of the Fathers, the bearers of Christ, says that prayer is the silence of the pure. For their thoughts are divine motions. The movements of the heart and the intellect that have been purified are the voices full of sweetness with which such people never cease to sing in secret to the hidden God.
When we pray, we begin to experience a progressive, dynamic and intimate relationship with God and He can transforms us from within. We, as Isaac said, can "become prayer" as we empty ourselves in order to be filled with Him.
Through prayer, daily life takes on new meaning and becomes a classroom of communion. In that classroom we learn the truth about who we are - and who we are becoming - in Jesus. Through prayer we receive new glasses through which we see the true landscape of life, darkness is dispelled and the path to progress is illuminated.
We begin to understand why this communion seems elusive as we struggle with our own disordered appetites. Without grace we live in a manner at odds with the beauty and order of the creation within which we dwell. Through Grace we find a new beginning, whenever we confess our sin and return to our first love. Prayer opens us up to Revelation, expands our capacity to comprehend truth and equips us to change.
Through prayer we are drawn by Love into a deepening relationship with Jesus whose loving embrace on the hill of Golgotha bridged heaven with earth; His relationship with His Father is opened now to us; the same Spirit that raised Him from the dead begins to give us new life as we are converted, transfigured and made new.
Through prayer, heavenly wisdom is planted in the field of our hearts and we experience a deepening communion with the Trinitarian God. We become, in the words of the Apostle Peter "partakers of the divine nature." (2 Peter 1:4) That participation will only be fully complete when we are with Him in the fullness of His embrace, in Resurrected Bodies in a New Heaven and a New earth, but it begins now, in the grace of this present moment.
The beloved disciple John became prayer. He writes in the letter he penned in his later years: See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. Beloved, we are God's children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure, as he is pure. Everyone who commits sin commits lawlessness, for sin is lawlessness. (1John 3:1-4)
As we "become prayer" our daily life becomes the field of choice and we are made capable of choosing the "more excellent way" of love of which the great Apostle Paul wrote. (1 Cor. 13) Pondering the implications of the exercise of our human freedom becomes a regular part of our life, as we learn to "examine our conscience", repent of our sin and become joyful penitents. Prayer provides the environment for such recollection as it exposes the darkness and helps us surrender it to the light of Love, the Living God dwelling within us.
"Becoming prayer" is possible for all Christians, no matter their state in life or vocation, because God holds nothing back from those whom He loves. This relationship of communion is initiated by Him. Our part is to respond. That response should flow from a heart that beats in surrendered love, in the process of being freed from the entanglements that weigh us down.
The God who is Love hungers for this communion with His sons and daughters - and we hunger for communion with Him - because He made us this way. Nothing else will satisfy. The early Church Father Origen once wrote: "Every spiritual being is, by nature, a temple of God, created to receive into itself the glory of God."
Pope Francis is a man of real prayer who is challenging all of us to really pray. Let us learn the lesson by praying.
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