May those responsible be persuaded
that war is an adventure with no return!
Grant in our time
days of peace!
In this Vatican-authorized volume, Pope John Paul II highlights the profound importance of the act of prayer as the cornerstone to faith. An Invitation to Prayer stands as an eloquent testimony to Pope John Paul II's messages of peace and love a powerful collection that invites us to actively participate in prayer as a duty, a privilege, and an infinite source of comfort and hope.
Read an Excerpt
Chapter One: Prayer
"Totus tuus ego sum
et omnia mea tua sunt.
Accipio te in mea omnia!"
I am entirely yours,
and all that I have is yours.
Be my guide in all things.
The Church exists for prayer
I would like to speak to you about the call to prayer.
We have meditated on these words of Jesus: "Pray that you may have strength...to stand before the Son of man." And we welcome again today the call to prayer that comes from Christ himself to each of us and to the whole Church. The call to prayer places the Church's full commitment in the proper perspective. In 1976, Paul VI, speaking of the "call to commitment," declared that "in the tradition of the Church every call to action is first of all a call to prayer." These words have great significance today, too. They are a stimulus for the Church everywhere in the world.
The universal Church of Christ, and hence every particular church, exists for prayer. In prayer the individual expresses his nature; the community expresses its vocation; the Church approaches God. In prayer the Church enters into communion with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. In prayer the Church expresses her Trinitarian life, because it is directed to the Father, is subjected to the action of the Holy Spirit, and lives fully the relationship with Christ. Indeed, it is experienced as the Body of Christ, as mystical Christ.
The Church encounters Christ in prayer in the depths of her being. In this way she discovers the truth of his teachings and assumes his mentality. Seeking tolive a personal relationship with Christ, the Church fully realizes the personal dignity of her members. In prayer the Church focuses on Christ; she takes Christ; she takes possession of him, she tastes his friendship, and thus is able to communicate it. Without prayer, all this would be lacking and the Church would have nothing to offer the world. But through the exercise of faith, hope, and charity in prayer, her capacity to communicate Christ is strengthened.
Prayer is the objective of every catechesis in the Church, since it is a means of union with God. Through prayer the Church expresses the authority of God and fulfills the first and great commandment of love.
Every aspect of human existence is marked by prayer. Man's work is revolutionized by prayer, raised to its highest level. Prayer is the means by which work is fully humanized. In prayer the value of work is understood, because we grasp the fact that we are truly collaborators with God in the action of transforming and elevating the world. Prayer consecrates this collaboration. At the same time prayer is a way of confronting the problems of life, and in prayer every pastoral undertaking is conceived and carried forward.
The call to prayer must precede the call to action, but the call to action must in fact accompany the call to prayer. The Church finds in prayer the root of social commitment the capacity to motivate and sustain it. In prayer we discover the needs of our brothers and sisters and make them our needs, because in prayer we discover that their needs are the needs of Christ. Social consciousness is formed by prayer. According to the words of Jesus, justice and mercy are the "weightier matters of the law." The Church's commitment to justice and her search for mercy will be successful only if the Holy Spirit gives the gift of perseverance: this gift must be sought in prayer.
In prayer we arrive at an understanding of the beatitudes and the reasons for living them. Only through prayer can we begin to see the aspirations of men according to the perspective of Christ. Without the intuitions of prayer we would never be able to grasp all the dimensions of human development and the urgency, for the Christian community, of commitment to this work.
Prayer invites us to examine our consciences with regard to all the problems that afflict humanity. It invites us to evaluate our responsibilities, personal and collective, before God's judgment and in the light of human solidarity. For this reason, prayer transforms the world. Everything is renewed, both in individuals and in communities. New goals and new ideals emerge. Dignity and Christian action are reaffirmed. The promises of baptism, confirmation, and Holy Orders acquire new urgency. Prayer opens up the horizons of conjugal love and of the mission of the family.
Christian sensibility depends on prayer. Prayer is the essential condition even if not the only one for a correct reading of the "signs of the times." Without prayer we are inevitably deceived on this delicate subject.
Decisions require prayer; major decisions require intense prayer. Jesus himself gave us the example. Before calling together the disciples so that he could choose twelve of them, Jesus spent the night on the mountain, in communion with the Father. For Jesus, praying to the Father did not mean only light and strength. It meant also trust, abandonment, and joy. His human nature exulted in the joy of prayer. In every age, the intensity of the Church's joy is proportionate to her prayer.
The strength of her authority and the condition for her confidence are fidelity to prayer. The mysteries of Christ are revealed to those who approach him in prayer. The full application of the Second Vatican Council will always be conditional on prayer. The great strides made by lay people in the Church in understanding how much they belong to the Church can be explained, in the final analysis, only by grace and its acceptance in prayer.
In the life of the Church today we often notice that the gift of prayer is joined to the Word of God. A renewed discovery of the Sacred Scriptures has developed the fruits of prayer. The word of God, accepted and meditated on, has the power to bring our hearts into closer communion with the Holy Trinity. This happens more and more in the Church of today. The benefits we receive through prayer that is joined to the Word of God impel us to respond with more prayer (prayers of praise and thanksgiving).
The Word of God generates prayer in all communities. At the same time it is in prayer that the Word of God is understood, applied, and lived. For all of us who are ministers of the Gospel, with the pastoral responsibility to announce the Good News opportune et importune in season and out of season and to carefully examine the reality of daily life in the light of the sacred Word of God, prayer is the context in which we prepare the declaration of faith. All evangelization is prepared for in prayer; in prayer first of all it applies to ourselves; in prayer it is then offered to the world.
Every local church is truly itself in the degree to which it is a community of prayer, with all the resulting dynamism that prayer effects. The universal Church is never so much herself as when she reflects faithfully the image of Christ in prayer: the Son who, praying, turns his entire being to the Father and consecrates himself for love of his brothers, "that they also may be consecrated in truth."
For this reason, dear brothers in the Episcopate, I wish to encourage you in all your efforts to teach people to pray. It is the job of the Apostolic Church to transmit the teachings of Jesus to all the generations, to offer faithfully to every local church the response of Jesus to the request: "Teach us to pray." I assure you of my support and that of the whole Church in your commitment to preach the importance of daily prayer and give the example of prayer. From the words of Jesus we know that wherever two or three are gathered in his name, he is among them. And we know that in every local church gathered in prayer around the bishop lives the incomparable beauty of the entire Catholic Church as the faithful image of Christ in prayer.
In his task as pastor of the universal Church, the successor of Peter is called on to live a communion of prayer with his brother bishops and their dioceses, and for this reason all your initiatives to promote prayer have my full support. In fraternal and pastoral charity I am near you when you call your people to daily prayer, when you invite them to discover in prayer their dignity as Christians. Every diocesan or parish initiative that exhorts us to more intense prayer, on the part of both individuals and families, is a blessing for the universal Church. Every group that gathers to recite the Rosary is a gift for the Kingdom of God. Yes, wherever two or three are gathered in the name of Christ, he is there. The contemplative communities are a special gift of God's love for his people. They need and deserve the fullness of your love and pastoral support. Their particular job in the world is to testify to the supremacy of God and the primacy of Christ's love, "which surpasses all understanding."
Profoundly convinced of the power of prayer and humbly engaged in it, dear brothers, we confidently proclaim throughout the whole Church the call to prayer. At stake is the very necessity for the Church to be herself, the Church at prayer, for the glory of the Father. The Holy Spirit will assist us and the merits of the Paschal Mystery of Christ will make up for our human weakness.
The example of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, as the model of prayer, is a source of confident trust for all of us. Looking at her, we are aware that her example sustains our priests, religious, and lay people. We know that her generosity is an inheritance for the whole Church to proclaim and imitate.
To a group of American bishops
on a visit "ad limina"
June 10, 1988
Copyright © 1999 by Libreria Editrice Rogate. English language translation copyright © 2002 by Libreria Editrice Rogate
Table of Contents
To the Holy Spirit
For Christian Unity
For the Family
Believe and You Will Live