Here is the translation of the Holy Father’s address during his weekly General Audience on 26 August in St Peter’s Square:
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
After reflecting on how the family lives times of celebration and work, we now consider the time of prayer. The most frequent lament of Christians has to do, in fact, with time: “I should pray more … I would like to, but I often lack the time.” We hear this continually. The regret is certainly sincere, because the human heart always seeks prayer, even without knowing it, and if it does not find it, it has no peace. However, to find it, it is necessary to cultivate in the heart a “warm” love for God, an affectionate love.
We can ask ourselves a very simple question. It is good to believe in God with all one’s heart; it is good to hope that He will help us in difficulties; it is good to feel the duty to thank Him. All this is right. But do we also love our Lord a bit? Does the thought of God move us, astound us, make us tender?
We think of the formulation of the great Commandment, which supports all the others: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:5; cf. Matthew 22:37). The formula uses the intensive language of love, pouring it over God. See, the spirit of prayer abides first of all here. And if it abides here, it abides all the time and never leaves. Are we able to think of God as the caress that holds us in life, before which there was nothing? A caress from which nothing, not even death, can detach us? Or do we only think of Him as the great Being, the Almighty who has made everything, the Judge who controls every action? All this is true, of course, but only when God is the affection of all our affections does the meaning of these words become full. Then we feel happy, and also somewhat confused, because He thinks of us and, above all, He loves us! Is this not impressive? Is it not impressive that God caresses us with the love of Father? It is so beautiful! He could have simply made Himself known as the Supreme Being, given his Commandments and waited for the results. Instead God has done and does infinitely more than this. He accompanies us on the way of life, He protects us, He loves us.
If affection for God does not enkindle a fire, the spirit of prayer does not warm time. We can also multiply our words, “as the pagans do,” says Jesus, or also exhibit our rites, “as the Pharisees do” (cf. Matthew 6:5.7). A heart inhabited by affection for God also makes a thought without words become a prayer, or an invocation before a sacred image, or a kiss sent toward a church. It is lovely when mothers teach their little children to send a kiss to Jesus or to Our Lady. How much tenderness there is in this! At that moment the heart of the children is transformed into a place of prayer. And it is a gift of the Holy Spirit. Let us never forget to ask for this gift for each one of us! Because the Spirit of God has that special way of saying in our heart “Abba” – “Father,” in fact it teaches us to say “Father” as Jesus said it, a way that we can never find on our own (cf. Galatians 4:6). It is in the family that one learns to ask for and appreciate this gift of the Spirit. If one learns to say it with the same spontaneity with which one learns to say “father” and “mother,” one has learnt it forever. When this happens, the time of the whole of family life is enveloped in the womb of the love of God, and seeks spontaneously the time of prayer.
We know well that family time is a complicated and crowded time, occupied and preoccupied. It is always little, it is never enough, there are so many things to do. One who has a family soon learns to resolve an equation that not even the great mathematicians know how to resolve: within the 24 hours there is twice that number! There are mothers and fathers who could win the Nobel Prize for this. Of 24 hours they make 48: I do not know how they do it but they move and do it! There is so much work in a family!
The spirit of prayer gives back time to God, it steps away from the obsession of a life that is always lacking time, it rediscovers the peace of necessary things, and discovers the joy of unexpected gifts. Good guides in this are the two sisters Martha and Mary, spoken of in the Gospel we just heard: they learned from God the harmony of family rhythms: the beauty of celebration, the serenity of work, the spirit of prayer (cf. Luke 10:38-42). The visit of Jesus, whom they really loved, was their celebration. However, one day Martha learned that the work of hospitality, though important, is not everything, but that to listen to the Lord, as Mary did, was really the essential thing, the “better part” of time. Prayer flows from listening to Jesus, from the reading of the Gospel. Do not forget, every day to read a passage of the Gospel. Prayer flows from intimacy with the Word of God. Is there this intimacy in our family? Do we have the Gospel at home? Do we open it some times to read it together? Do we meditate on it while reciting the Rosary? The Gospel read and meditated in the family is like good bread that nourishes everyone’s heart. And in the morning and in the evening, and when we sit at table, we learn to say together a prayer with great simplicity: it is Jesus who comes among us, as he was with the family of Martha, Mary and Lazarus. There is something that I have very much at heart and that I have seen in the city: there are children who have not learned to make the Sign of the Cross! But you, mother, father, teach your child to pray, to make the Sign of the Cross: this is a lovely task of mothers and fathers!
In the prayer of the family, in its intense and in its difficult seasons, we remember one another, so that each one of us in the family is protected by the love of God.