Francis on the Psalms: prayer is the way of salvation, and the beginning of salvation

At the general audience, Francis noted how the Psalms teach us to pray by establishing a relationship with God; they are the voice of the suffering people who are not abandoned.

Newsdesk (October 15, 2020, Gaudium Press) On Wednesday general audience following his teachings on prayer, Pope Francis delved into the Psalms; they are biblical texts that “teach us to pray”, in a dialogue the authors carry out with God. The catechesis took place in the Paul VI Audience Hall.

“The Psalms are not texts created on paper; they are invocations, often dramatic, that spring from lived existence. To pray them it is enough for us to be what we are,” the Pontiff said.

In the Bible, there are prayers of different styles. “But we also find a book made up solely of prayers, a book that has become the native land, gymnasium, and home of countless men and women of prayer. It is the Book of Psalms.” As part of the books of Wisdom, the psalms teach us the “knowledge of prayer” in the dialogue with God.

In the psalms, we find all possible human feelings: joy, sorrows, doubt, hope, bitterness, and all tones that color human life. That is why “As we read and reread the Psalms, we learn the language of prayer. God the Father, indeed, with His Spirit, inspired them in the heart of King David and others who prayed, to teach every man and woman how to praise Him, how to thank Him and to supplicate; how to invoke Him in joy and in suffering, and how to recount the wonders of His works and of His Law. In short, the Psalms are the word of God that we human beings use to speak with Him,” said Francis.

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The Catechism affirms that every Psalm “possesses such direct simplicity that it can be prayed in truth by men of all times and conditions” (CCC, 2588). 

Psalms are invocations, often dramatic, that spring from life, from existence. To pray them it is enough for us to be what we are. In the Psalms, we hear the voices of men and women of prayer in flesh and blood, whose life, like everyone else’s, is fraught with problems, fatigue, and uncertainty.

Prayer, the way of salvation

The psalms are the invocation to God of a suffering soul, and the prayerful psalmist asks God to intervene when all human efforts are in vain. That is why prayer, already in itself, is the way of salvation and the beginning of salvation.

“All suffer, both those who believe in God and those who do not. But in the Psalms pain is transformed into a relationship: a cry for help that queries for a listening ear. Also, the pain we suffer cannot be only specific cases of universal law: they are always “my” tears, which nobody has ever shed before me. So prays the prayer of Psalm 56: “Thou hast kept count of my tossings; put thou my tears in thy bottle! Are they not in thy book?”(v. 9). Before God, we are not strangers or numbers. We are faces and hearts, known one by one, by name.”

“In the Psalms, the believer finds an answer. He knows that even if all human doors were barred, God’s door is open. Even if the whole world had issued a verdict of condemnation, there is salvation in God.”

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