Since stepping out into loggia to face the multitude of cheering Catholics in St. Peter’s Square six years ago, Pope Francis has been all about prayer. Before he started his first prayer for the people who waited to hear him speak, he asked them to pray for his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. In an unexpected move, he also asked the crowd to pray for him before humbly bowing before them to receive their blessing. “Pray for me,” in fact, is a request made often by a man who clearly believes in the relevance and power of prayer.
My Pope highlights three instances when Lolo Kiko talked about prayer—from what it’s all about and what it takes to be effective to what it means to him.
Also Read: Pope Francis’ Prayer of the Five Fingers
“You pray for the hungry, then you feed them. That is how prayer works.”
This message wasn’t just meant for the countless starving people in the world and the Pope’s mission to end global hunger. It also refers to our attitude toward prayer. While it’s okay to ask God to step in and eradicate world hunger, it is just as important for us to do something about it.
So get up and move: study to ace a difficult exam, put in extra hours at work to earn more for your family, draw on your willpower to overcome temptation, or in the aforementioned example, feed the hungry. By acting upon your prayer requests (instead of just sitting there and waiting for miracles to fall on your lap), who knows? God could use you as the instrument through which He answers your own prayers.
“To be friends with God means to pray with simplicity, like children talking to their parents.”
Prayer, or communicating with God to ask for help or forgiveness, or to praise Him and give thanks, is a personal thing––and we each have our own unique and special way of doing this. From Pope Francis’ message, prayer with all the whistles and bells isn’t necessary for a Higher Being who is more like a parent or friend. Just speak simply and sincerely; God knows us inside and out and won’t judge us if we forego ceremonies and rituals and simply ask for something or apologize for the gravest of sins.
“The one who listens attentively to the Word of God and truly prays, always asks the Lord: what is your will for me?”
Prayer, as Pope Francis points out, isn’t just about speaking from the heart and asking for what we want—it’s also about listening and discerning God’s message for us. Some people say they hear the answer to their prayer through a voice in their head. Others say it comes through signs like the proverbial white rose, and still others believe the answer comes through other people’s words and actions.
If prayer is about communicating, then it is a two-way conversation. Sit in silence after you’ve poured your heart out to reflect upon the words of your prayer and, more importantly, to listen to what God wants you to know.
Bonus! In the book A Big Heart Open to God: An Interview with Pope Francis, Fr. Antonio Spadaro, SJ, asks Pope Francis about his preferred way to pray. His reply, a combination of traditional prayers and personal reflection throughout the day, will have us thinking about our own style of worship and thanks.
“I pray the breviary every morning. I like to pray with the psalms. Then, later, I celebrate Mass. I pray the Rosary. What I really prefer is adoration in the evening, even when I get distracted and think of other things, or even fall asleep praying. In the evening then, between seven and eight o’clock, I stay in front of the Blessed Sacrament for an hour in adoration. But I pray mentally even when I am waiting at the dentist or at other times of the day.
“I ask myself: ‘What have I done for Christ? What am I doing for Christ? What should I do for Christ?’ But above all, I also know that the Lord remembers me. I can forget about him, but I know that he never, ever forgets me.”