If there were anyone that needs no prayer, who would it be? One might be inclined to say Pope Francis, but they would be wrong. In his recent U.S. tour one message curiously stood out to me, “please, pray for me!” I let it go – practically unnoticed – until I really started thinking about it. After all, why pray for the Pope?
“For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.” St. Thérèse of Lisieux
What is Prayer, Anyway?
St. John Damascene says, “Prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God.” We know from the Catechism of the Catholic Church that prayer is a gift from God (2559), which comes from the heart (2562), and is a communion with the “thrice-holy God…possible because, through baptism, we have already been united with Christ” (2565). Prayer is the relationship we have with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Thinking of St. Therese’s explanation above, we pray for many reasons. As humans we are compelled to communicate – we are social creatures. St Augustine recognized a deeper human need at the start of his Confessions, “God, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you.” We want to share our trials and joy with our creator. And we can do this through several basic forms of prayer: blessing, petition, intercession, thanksgiving, and praise (CCC 2644).
Other than praying for ourselves, to intercede on someone’s behalf is to pray as Jesus did as he is the one intercessor, with the Father on behalf of all men, especially sinners (CCC2634). Intercessory prayer is characteristic of a heart attuned toward God’s mercy (CCC 2635). In the Eucharistic liturgy and in the daily prayers of her faithful, the Church implores the mercy of God, who does not want “any to perish, but all to come to repentance” (1037).
Why does the Pope Need Prayer?
In a recent article Pope Francis explains why he asks for prayers: “I started asking it more often when I became bishop. I feel I have many weaknesses and problems…I am a sinner too. This request is something that comes from within. I also ask Mary to pray for me. It’s a habit that comes from the heart. It’s something I feel I have to ask.” This is reminiscent of his comment after first taking office, “Who am I to judge.” Pope Francis, whilw the Vicar of Christ on Earth, is human.
Who am I to pray for the Pope?
When in Washington D.C., Pope Francis asked House Speaker John Boehner to “please, pray for me.” Of course Senator Boehner’s response was “Who am I to pray for the Pope? But I did.” In a beautiful world with a fallen nature we may be very well aware of our shortcomings and sinfulness. We might even be tempted to think because of this our prayers are not valuable or effective. But I believe to the contrary. It is with the sincere heart we humble ourselves and pray for ourselves, our leadership, our world, Pope Francis, and salvation for all. A genuine prayer is an effective prayer.
So, Why Does the Pope Ask for Prayer?
Maybe it’s because he feels there is a need in his own life. Perhaps it’s to remind us of the inexhaustible need others have. Pope Francis, I am convinced, is reminding us of the importance of prayer. We simply cannot rely on humanity alone. We all need God to intervene in our lives and in society, and we need to trust that God is always with us. So, why pray for the Pope? He needs it like you and me! Please, pray for me, and I’ll pray for you.