Vatican City (AsiaNews) - People have always prayed, to "witness of the religious dimension inscribed in the heart of every man," they pray "because they can not help but ponder the meaning of their existence, which remains dark and daunting, if not made in connection with the mystery of God and his plan for the world ". But even if people have always prayed, today there is still a "need to learn to pray, because prayer" should not be taken for granted "and also the masters of spiritual life must always learn and renew" this art. " Benedict XVI said as much today, announcing to the 40 thousand people attending the general audience in St Peter's Square the beginning of a new series of reflections that will be almost a "school of prayer."
In this journey, "we receive the first lesson from the Lord, through His example. The Gospels describe Jesus in intimate and ongoing dialogue with the Father: this is a deep communion of the one who came into the world not to do his will, but that of the Father, who was sent for the salvation of man”.
But the Pope’s examination of prayer began today, "as an introduction”, with the most ancient cultures: from Egypt, where a blind man asks the gods to restore his sight. It is a pure prayer of supplication from someone who is in suffering: turn your face to me so that that I may see you".
In Mesopotamia "dominated by a mysterious and paralyzing guilt, not without, however, hope for redemption and deliverance from God", as shown in a petition that says, "O God you who are too indulgent even with my most serious faults, absolve my sin ... Look, O Lord, upon your exhausted servant, and breath upon him: forgive him without delay. Relieve him from your severe punishment". "These expressions demonstrate that man, in his search for God, realized, albeit vaguely," even "aspects of the mercy and goodness of God."
In ancient Greece there is an evolution, " prayers, while continuing to invoke divine help in search of the favor of heaven in all the circumstances of daily life and to achieve material benefits, progressively move towards more disinterested requests, allowing believers to deepen their relationship with God and become better people. For example, the great philosopher Plato tells of a prayer of his teacher, Socrates, who is rightly considered one of the founders of Western thought: grant that I may become beautiful within, and that whatever outward things I have may be in harmony with the spirit inside me. May I understand that it is only the wise who are rich, and may I have only as much money as a temperate person needs. For me, that prayer is enough. " And those "literary masterpieces of all time that are the Greek tragedies," which contain "prayers expressing the desire to know God and to worship his majesty. One of them reads: 'Support the earth, you who reside above the earth, whoever you are, difficult to understand, Zeus, may you be the law of nature or the thought of mere mortals, I turn to you: for you, proceeding along silent paths, guide human affairs according to justice”.
In the Romans' prayer, even if associated with a utilitarian view, fundamentally linked to the demand of divine protection on the life of civil society, sometimes invocations of admirable zeal and personal piety appear, that become praise and thanksgiving ". This is attested by Apuleius in his writings which "manifestthe contemporary dissatisfaction towards the traditional religion and the desire for a more authentic relationship with God." In the Metamorphoses, a believer turns to a female deity with these words: 'You are truly holy, you are savoir of the human species for all time, you, in your generosity, offer more aid to mortals, you offer to the poor in labour the sweet affection that only a mother can have '. " And the emperor Marcus Aurelius, who was also a philosopher, "affirms the need to pray to establish a fruitful cooperation between divine action and human action. He writes in his memory: 'Who told you that the gods do not help us even in what depends on us? Thus begin to pray, and you will see '. "
In these examples of the different epochs and civilizations, "the awareness that the human being as a creature of his condition and dependence on Another the source of all good. Throughout time man prays because he can not help but wonder what the meaning of his existence is, which remains dark and depressing, if not made in connection with the mystery of God and his plan for the world. Human life is a weave of good and evil, of undeserved suffering and joy and beauty, which spontaneously and irresistibly impels us to ask God for that light and inner strength that comes to our aid on earth and open up a hope that goes beyond the boundaries of death. "
Through the examples of the different cultures of prayer, the Pope concluded, "we can see a witness of the religious dimension and the desire for God inscribed in the hearts of every man, which receives full expression and fulfilment in the Old and New Testament. The Revelation, in fact, purifies and brings to fullness the original desire of man for God, offering him, in prayer, the possibility of a deeper relationship with our Heavenly Father. "