What actually happens in prayer? If we ask this, we run into a second barrier, which in many respects explains the first. Our crisis in prayer is fundamental, yes, but it is also simply practical: we do not quite know how it is done, and perhaps all the great fundamental difficulties are after all just an ideological superstructure that is supposed to justify this practical inability of ours to cope with prayer. Because we are unable to do it, we invent a theory that tells us that we could not have been able to do it in the first place, because it no longer works at all and makes no sense any more.

How should we begin, then, to find a doorway? Now man is a disappointing, failing being, who again and again finds that he is helpless, and the most characteristic thing about him is precisely the cry of distress, the SOS call for help. And so the history of prayer begins, not just in the Old Testament, with the cry, “O LORD … we beg you!” (Psalm 118:25, cf. Numbers 12:13, and 2 Samuel 15:31), with this protest against affliction, with lament and struggle for God; yet the prayer that Jesus gave as the model for all prayer when he was asked, “Lord, teach us to pray” is a prayer of petition.

…If we really say Kyrie eleison, if we really cry to God out of the depths of our misery, this is a recognition of what we are and what he is; it is worshipping his glory. For in doing that we say, honestly, “Look at me, God, I am nothing, but You are everything; I am full of misery, but You are rich enough to heal all the misery in the world; I am sinful and wicked, but You are full of extravagant love. You do not love as men do, who love only those who are sympathetic to them; You also love the beggar in rags, the prodigal son. You do not love because we are good but, rather, because You are good.…”

To petition God really means nothing other than to place ourselves entirely in God’s hands. To petition God means humbly to acknowledge God’s surpassing glory and to let him have that glory without wanting to copy it.

(Pope Benedict XVI, Dogma and Preaching: Applying Christian Doctrine to Daily Life, Ignatius Press, 2011, Page 106-108.)

My notes: It is important to see that Pope Benedict is not describing prayer as only words or even as a dialog. I think it is a fair assessment to say that his understanding is that prayer is a movement of our heart to and ultimately into the heart of the Holy Trinity.

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