Pope at Audience: Those who pray, pray for all

Pope Francis reflects on “the prayer of intercession” during his weekly General Audience.

By Christopher Wells

Continuing his catechesis on prayer, Pope Francis on Wednesday focused on “intercessory prayer”; that is, prayer which asks on behalf of another.”

Those who are accustomed to pray, said Pope Francis, “never turn their backs on the world.” If prayer is not engaged with every aspect of human existence – its joys and sorrows, its hopes and anxieties – it becomes a “decorative” activity.

Bread, broken and shared

The Pope noted a resemblance between those who pray for others, and Christ in the Eucharist. “In prayer,” he said, “God ‘takes us, blesses us, breaks us, and gives us,’ to satisfy everyone’s hunger.” Every Christian, he added, “is called to become bread, broken and shared, in God’s hands.”

Men and women of prayer, the Pope said, always “keep the doors of their hearts wide open,” even when they seek solitude and silence. They pray for those who do not pray, or do not know how to pray, as well as for those “who have erred and have lost the way.” In their solitude, those who pray “separate themselves from everything and everyone” precisely in order to “rediscover everything and everyone in God.”

Praying for all

The Pope said these people “pray for each and every person,” they see “the face of Christ in every poor person who knocks at their door, in every person who has lost the meaning of things.”

Prayer is “simply human,” Pope Francis said. “The human heart tends toward prayer.” But prayer necessarily involves love for our brothers and sisters. Human experience, said the Pope, “is present in every prayer, because no matter what errors people may have committed, they should never be rejected or discarded.”

Neither judgment nor condemnation

Pope Francis insisted that when those who pray offer prayers for sinners, there should be no judgment or condemnation: those who pray, pray for all, and first of all for themselves. The Holy Father suggested, for this very reason, a prayer that all can pray: “Lord, no one is just in your sight; we are all debtors, each with an outstanding balance to pay; no one is sinless in your eyes. Lord, have mercy on us!”

The Pope continued, noting that, even despite the sins of His people, God remains faithful, persevering “in His service as a Shepherd even with those force him to get His hands dirty; He does not close His heart to those who have even made Him suffer.”

A mission of intercessory prayer

The Church, too, said Pope Francis, “has the mission of practicing the prayer of intercession” – and this duty is especially incumbent upon those who have responsibility for others. “Like Abraham and Moses,” he said, “they must at times ‘defend’ those entrusted to them before God.”

In fact, the Pope said, by praying to God, they are “guarding them with God’s eyes and heart, with His same invincible compassion and tenderness.”

Leaves on the same tree

“We are all leaves on the same tree,” the Pope said in conclusion. “Each one that falls reminds us of the great piety that must be nourished in prayer for one another.”