CNS PHOTO | PAUL HARRING
Pope Benedict gives a short talk after listening to a concert in his honour in Paul VI Hall at the Vatican May 5.
VATICAN CITY - People of every epoch and in every culture have prayed because people have always recognized there is something greater than themselves in the universe, Pope Benedict said.
"Human life is a mix of good and bad, of undeserved suffering and of joy and beauty, which spontaneously and irresistibly push us to ask God for light and interior strength," the pope said May 4 at his weekly general audience.
Humans seek that strength to save us in this life and assure us that there is life beyond the grave, he said.
Pope Benedict began a new series of audience talks about prayer.
"We want to learn to live more intensely our relationship with the Lord" through prayer, he said.
"Even those very advanced in the spiritual life feel a constant need to put themselves in the school of Jesus to learn how to pray."
Pope Benedict explained that examples of attempts to pray can be found even in classical pagan cultures.
The ancient Egyptian prayers tended to focus on pleas for help from on high and those of ancient Mesopotamia were characterized by an acknowledgment of human guilt and a search for mercy, he said.
The ancient Greeks, such as Socrates and Plato, showed a shift from seeking personal favours to requesting assistance in being wise and good.
The ancient pagan pleas "demonstrate that human life without prayer, which opens our existence to the mystery of God, becomes meaningless and lacks a point of reference."
Every prayer, the pope said, shows two basic truths about the human person: his or her experience of a need for help, and his or her "extraordinary dignity" as a being "able to enter into communion with God."
The desire for a relationship with God is "inscribed on every human heart," he said. The keys to entering such a relationship are found in the Bible.
It is only "in Jesus that human beings become able to draw close to God with the depth and intimacy of sons and daughters," he said.