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A Prayer that asks with confidence

Catechesis by Pope Francis on the Our Father
General Audience, Wednesday 12 December 2018 - in Arabic, Croatian, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
Let us continue on the path of catecheses on the Lord’s Prayer, which we began last week. Jesus places on the lips of his disciples a short, audacious prayer, made up of seven requests — a number that, in the Bible, is not random, but indicates fullness. I say audacious because, had Christ not suggested it, probably none of us — indeed, none of the most well-known theologians — would dare pray to God in this way.

In fact Jesus invites his disciples to approach God and to confidently address several requests to him: first in regard to him and then in regard to us. There is no preamble to the ‘Our Father’. Jesus does not teach formulas for one to ‘ingratiate oneself’ to the Lord, but instead invites us to pray to Him by knocking down the barriers of awe and fear. He does not tell us we should address God by calling him ‘Almighty’, ‘Most High’, [by saying,] ‘You, who are so distant from us, I am a wretched man’: no, he does not say this, but simply ‘Father’, with total simplicity, as children address their father. And this word, “Father”, expresses confidence and filial trust.

The ‘Our Father’ prayer sinks its roots in the concrete reality of mankind. For example, it has us ask for bread, daily bread: a simple but essential request, which indicates that faith is not a matter of an ‘adornment’, detached from life, which arises when all other needs have been satisfied. If anything, prayer begins with life itself. Prayer, Jesus teaches us, does not begin in human life after the stomach is full: rather, it settles in wherever a person is, anyone who is hungry, who weeps, who struggles, who suffers and who wonders ‘why?’. Our first prayer, in a certain sense, was the wail that accompanied the first breath. In that newborn’s cry the fate of our whole life was announced: our constant hunger, our constant thirst, our search for happiness.

In prayer, Jesus does not seek to extinguish the person; he does not seek to anaesthetize him or her. He does not want us to tone down the demands and requests, learning to bear all things. Instead, he wants all suffering, all distress to soar heavenward and become dialogue.

Having faith, someone said, is a habit of crying out.

We all need to be like Bartimaeus in the Gospel (cf. Mk 10:46-52) — let us recall that passage of the Gospel: Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus — that blind man who was begging at the gates of Jericho. He had so many good people around him telling him to keep quiet: ‘Be quiet! The Lord is passing by. Be quiet. Do not disturb. The Master has much to do; do not disturb him. You are annoying with your cries. Do not disturb’. But he did not heed those suggestions: with blessed persistence, he insisted that his wretched condition might finally encounter Jesus. And he cried louder! And the polite people said: ‘No, he is the Master, please! You are making a bad impression!’. And he cried out because he wanted to see; he wanted to be healed. “Jesus, have mercy on me!” (cf. v. 47). Jesus heals his sight and says: “your faith has made you well” (v. 52), as if to explain that the decisive element of his healing was that prayer, that invocation shouted out with faith, stronger than the ‘common sense’ of many people who wanted him to keep quiet. Prayer not only precedes salvation, but in some way already contains it, because it frees one from the despair of those who do not believe in a way out of many unbearable situations.

Of course, then, believers also feel the need to praise God. The Gospels offer us the jubilant exclamation that gushes forth from Jesus’ heart, full of wonder, grateful to the Father (cf. Mt 11:25-27). The first Christians even felt the need to add a doxology to the text of the Lord’s Prayer (cf. Mt 11:25-27): “for thine is the power and the glory for ever” (Didache, 8:2).

But none of us is obliged to embrace the theory that someone advanced in the past, namely, that the prayer of supplication may be a weak form of faith, while the more authentic prayer would be pure praise, that which seeks God without the burden of any request. No, this is not true. The prayer of supplication is authentic; it is spontaneous; it is an act of faith in God who is Father, who is good, who is almighty. It is an act of faith in me, who am small, sinful, needy. And for this reason prayer, in order to ask for something, is quite noble. God is the Father who has immense compassion for us, and wants his children to speak to him without fear, directly calling him ‘Father’; or amid difficulties saying: ‘Lord, what have you done to me?’. For this reason we can tell him everything, even the things that are distorted and incomprehensible in our life. And he promised us that he would be with us for ever, until the last day we shall spend on this earth. Let us pray the ‘Our Father’, beginning this way, simply: ‘Father’, or ‘Dad’. And he understands us and loves us very much."


"Je salue cordialement les pèlerins de langue française, en particulier les jeunes venus de Quimper. Alors que nous nous préparons à fêter la venue du Seigneur parmi nous, ne craignons pas, frères et sœurs, de nous adresser à Dieu avec confiance dans toutes les circonstances de notre vie quotidienne. Nous sommes ses enfants, et il nous a promis d’être avec nous, tous les jours jusqu’à la fin de notre vie. Que Dieu vous bénisse.

I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, especially those from the United States of America. Upon all of you, and your families, I invoke the Lord’s blessings of joy and peace. God bless you!

Herzlich heiße ich die Pilger deutscher Sprache willkommen. Besonders grüße ich die Delegation der Österreichischen Parlamentarier, die anlässlich des 200-Jahr-Jubiläums des Weihnachtsliedes „Stille Nacht“ gekommen sind. In seiner tiefen Schlichtheit lässt uns dieses Lied das Geschehen der Heiligen Nacht begreifen. Jesus, der Retter, der in Betlehem geboren wurde, offenbart uns die Liebe Gottes des Vaters. Ihm wollen wir unser ganzes Leben anvertrauen. Gesegnete Adventszeit euch allen.

Saludo cordialmente a los peregrinos de lengua española venidos de España y Latinoamérica. De modo especial saludo a los latinoamericanos y a los mexicanos en este día de nuestra Patrona, la Madre de Guadalupe. Que el Señor Jesús nos dé la gracia de una total confianza en Dios, Padre compasivo que nos ama y permanece siempre a nuestro lado. Que Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe nos ayude a entregarnos al amor providente de Dios y a poner en Él toda nuestra esperanza. Muchas gracias.

Uma cordial saudação aos peregrinos de língua portuguesa, particularmente aos fiéis de Braga, Nova Oeiras, São Julião da Barra e aos membros da Orquestra Sinfônica da Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte, de coração desejo a todos um tempo do Advento cheio de luz, pedindo à Virgem Maria, Mãe de Deus e da Igreja, para ser a estrela que protege a vida das vossas famílias. Que Deus vos abençoe!

أرحب بالحجاج الناطقين باللغة العربية، وخاصة بالقادمين من مصر ومن الأراضي المقدسة ومن الشرق الأوسط. إن صلاة "الآبانا" ليست مجرد صلاة يجب علينا حفظها وتلاوتها، ولكنها نموذج يعلمنا كيفية الصلاة والشكر والطلب. يخبرنا القديس بولس: "لا تكونوا في هم من أي شيء كان، بل في كل شيء لترفع طلباتكم إلى الله بالصلاة والدعاء مع الشكر، فإن سلام الله الذي يفوق كل إدراك يحفظ قلوبكم وأذهانكم في المسيح يسوع" (فل 4، 6- 7). ليبارككم الرب جميعا ويحرسكم من الشرير!‏‏

Pozdrawiam serdecznie pielgrzymów polskich. Matce Bożej z Guadalupe, której wspomnienie dzisiaj obchodzimy, zawierzam was tu obecnych, wasze rodziny, a szczególnie te, które oczekują narodzin dziecka. Święty Jan Paweł II powierzył Jej macierzyńskiej trosce życie i niewinność dzieci, zwłaszcza tych, którym zagraża niebezpieczeństwo śmierci, zanim się narodzą. Madonna z Guadalupe – widać, że jest brzemienna: oczekuje Zbawiciela. Za Jej wstawiennictwem, w tym czasie Adwentu, wypraszajmy dar potomstwa dla bezdzietnych rodzin, szacunek dla poczętego życia i otwartość serc na wartości ewangeliczne. Niech będzie pochwalony Jezus Chrystus.

Rivolgo un cordiale benvenuto ai fedeli di lingua italiana. Sono lieto di accogliere i pellegrini dalla Diocesi di Sabina-Poggio Mirteto e i gruppi parrocchiali, in particolare quelli di Apice e di Perito. Saluto il gruppo “Chaminade” di Campobasso, accompagnato dall’Arcivescovo, Mons. Giancarlo Maria Bregantini, i Militari del 2° Reggimento Aviazione Esercito “Sirio”, di Lamezia Terme; il Personale della Questura di Isernia; il Gruppo St Petr’s Cricket club; gli Istituti scolastici, in particolare quello di Altamura, e il gruppo di Ammalati con sindrome Sensibilità Chimica Multipla.

Un pensiero particolare rivolgo ai giovani, agli anziani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli.

Oggi nella celebrazione liturgica della Beata Maria Vergine di Guadalupe chiediamo che ci accompagni al Natale e ravvivi in noi il desiderio di accogliere con gioia la luce di suo Figlio Gesù, per farla risplendere sempre di più nella notte del mondo.