Catechesis on prayer – 29. The Church, teacher of prayer

Many of us learned how to pray from the first prayers taught by our parents or grandparents. Yet we also receive a rich inheritance in the moments of liturgical and community prayer in our parishes.  Thus our faith and strength comes from “not only personal prayer, but also that of our brothers and sisters, and of the community that accompanied and supported us, of the people who know us, of the people we ask to pray for us.”

Thus Pope Francis asserts that prayer is essential for growing in faith – “the breath of faith is prayer: we grow in faith inasmuch as we learn to pray.”

The Church has communities and groups dedicated solely to prayer, like monasteries. These “small oases” of persons consecrated to God, living intense prayer and fraternal community, become a spiritual light that radiates out into the Church and the world.

However, “When the Enemy wants to fight the Church, he does so first by trying to drain her fonts, preventing praying.” Prayer is what “opens the door to the Holy Spirit” for inspiration and growth in the Church.

“If prayer ceases,” Pope Francis warns, “the Church become like an empty shell, she has lost her bearings.” The saints did not have easier lives than others, but found strength, faith and hope in their prayer always drawn from the inexhaustible “well” of the Church.  Saints sustain the world “with the weapon of prayer.” Thus Pope Francis can conclude: “The lamp of faith will always be lit on earth as long as there is the oil of prayer.”

In summary, the Church’s essential task is, “to pray and to teach how to pray. To transmit the lamp of faith and the oil of prayer from generation to generation.”

Pope Francis invites you to meditate on the following questions:

Do I pray? Do we pray? How do I pray? Like parrots or do I pray with my heart? How do I pray? Do I pray, certain that I am in the Church and that I pray with the Church? Or do I pray according to my own ideas and make my ideas become prayer? This is pagan prayer, not Christian.

“When the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Lk 18:8)

Prayer remains the wellspring of the Church’s life and the true source of her strength in bearing witness to the risen Lord. For this reason, Jesus insists on the need of his disciples to pray tirelessly and without ceasing.