Pope Francis on Wednesday encouraged busy Catholics to say the “Jesus Prayer” throughout the day.
Speaking at the general audience June 9, the Pope recommended the short prayer at the heart of Eastern Christianity’s mystical tradition.
Referring to the 19th-century Russian spiritual classic The Way of a Pilgrim, he said: The pilgrim “wondered how it was possible to pray without interruption, given that our lives are fragmented into so many different moments, which do not always make concentration possible”.
“From this question, he begins his search, which will lead him to discover what is called the prayer of the heart. It consists in repeating with faith: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’”
He asked pilgrims in the San Damaso Courtyard of the Apostolic Palace to repeat the words out loud, saying that it was a prayer “that, little by little, adapts itself to the rhythm of breath and extends throughout the day”.
The Pope’s live-streamed address, dedicated to “Perseverance in love”, was the 37 meditation in his cycle of catechesis on prayer.
Telling pilgrims that his latest address was his “penultimate catechesis on prayer”, he reflected on how to sustain prayer amid the pressures of daily life.
He said: “One has the impression that it will never be possible to get through it all. And so it is good for us to think that God, our Father, who must take care of all the universe, always remembers each one of us. Therefore, we too must always remember Him!”
He said that throughout Christian history work has been held in high esteem and not disparaged.
But it would be “inhuman”, he said, to become so absorbed by work that prayer falls by the wayside.
“At the same time, a prayer that is alien from life is not healthy,” he commented. “A prayer that alienates itself from the concreteness of life becomes spiritualism, or worse, ritualism.”
He noted that after the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor, Jesus and his disciples resumed their daily lives.
“In this way, the time dedicated to staying with God revives faith, which helps us in the practicalities of living, and faith, in turn, nurtures prayer, without interruption. In this circularity between faith, life, and prayer, one keeps alight that flame of Christian life that God expects of us.”