Pope Francis offered advice on Wednesday for building “a more mature and more beautiful relationship with the Lord” through prayer.
Speaking at his general audience in St. Peter’s Square on a cold, cloudy morning on Nov. 16, the pope spoke about spiritual desolation and approaching prayer without solely seeking “emotional gratification” or as “a mere exchange.”
“Many of our prayers are also somewhat like this: they are requests for favors addressed to the Lord, without any real interest in him,” Pope Francis said.
“It does us a great deal of good to learn to be with him, to be with the Lord, to learn to be with the Lord without ulterior motives, exactly as it happens with people we care for: we wish to know them more and more because it is good to be with them,” he added.
The pope pointed to the example of a child’s relationship with his parents. He said that children often look to their parents for what they can give them: a toy, some money, ice cream, etc. It is only when one grows up that the realization occurs that the greatest gift is one’s parents, to be with them.
“Dear brothers and sisters, the spiritual life is not a technique at our disposal, it is not a program for inner ‘well-being’ that it is up to us to plan. No. It is the relationship with the Living One, with God,” Francis said.
Building upon his most recent catechesis on spiritual desolation, the pope underlined that the experience of desolation, or feeling emotionally dry in prayer, “can be an occasion for growth.”
“For many saints, restlessness was a decisive impetus to turn their lives around. … This is the case, for example, of Augustine of Hippo, Edith Stein, Joseph Benedict Cottolengo, and Charles de Foucauld,” he said.
The pope urged people to “never be discouraged” when facing difficulties with prayer, but to trust with determination that “the help of the grace of God is never lacking.”
At the end of his general audience, the pope prayed for the victims of the recent bombing in Istanbul and said that his “unceasing prayer is for martyred Ukraine.”
Pope Francis particularly raised concern about the potential for escalation in the war in Ukraine. NATO held emergency talks on Wednesday morning after Poland was struck by a missile, killing two people, according to the Associated Press.
“Let us pray that the Lord will convert the hearts of those who still insist on war, and make the desire for peace prevail for martyred Ukraine, to avoid any escalation and open the way to a cease-fire and dialogue,” Francis said.
Pope Francis also prayed that the Lord would grant the Ukrainians “consolation, strength in trials, and hope for peace.” He said: “We can pray for Ukraine, saying, ‘Hurry up Lord.’”