“The Bible says that Moses spoke to the Lord face to face, like with a friend. This is how prayer should be: free, insistent, with debate. And also scolding the Lord a little,” the Pope said April 3.
Speaking to those present in the Vatican's Saint Martha guesthouse, the pontiff centered his address on the encounter between Moses and God in the day's first reading, taken from Exodus, in which Moses intercedes for the people of Israel, asking the Lord not to destroy them as he threatens for worshipping idols.
Moses’ prayer he noted, “is a real struggle with God. A struggle (on the part of) the leader of a people to save his people, who are the people of God.”
The Pope went on to express how when Moses prayed, he did so freely, courageously and with insistence, stating that prayer ought to be a “negotiation with God” to which we bring our “arguments.”
Highlighting how “the Lord repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to His people” thanks to Moses’ intercession, Pope Francis asked the question “But who changed here? Has the Lord changed? I think not.”
“The one who is changed, is Moses, because Moses believed that the Lord would do this, believed that the Lord would destroy the people and he searches, in his memory, for how good the Lord had been with his people, how he had taken out them out of slavery in Egypt and brought them forward with a promise.”
With these arguments the prophet attempts to persuade God “but in this process he regains the memory of the people, and finds the mercy of God,” the Pope observed.
“This Moses, that was afraid, afraid that God would do this, eventually comes down from the mountain with a great thing in his heart: our God is merciful. He pardons. He goes back on his decisions. He is a Father.”
Explaining how Moses knew all of these things already, Pope Francis pointed out that he only “vaguely knew it,” and that “he rediscovers it in prayer. This is what prayer does to us: it changes our heart.”
“Prayer changes our heart. It makes us understand better how our God is. But, for this it is important to speak with the Lord, not with empty words – Jesus says 'As the pagans do.'”
“No, no: speak with reality,” the Pope insisted, encouraging those present to say in prayer “'But, look, Lord, I have this problem, in my family, with my son, with this or that...What can be done? But look, you can't leave me like this!'”
“This is prayer!” he exclaimed, asking “But does this prayer take a long time? Yes, it takes time,” he noted, adding that the time it takes is the time we need in order to know God better and to be able to speak to him as a friend.
Drawing attention to how the scripture passaged describes Moses as speaking to God “face to face, like a friend,” the pontiff observed “This is how prayer should be: free, insistent, with debate, and should also scold “the Lord a little: 'But, you promised me this, and you haven't done it...'”
“Open the heart to this prayer,” he implored of those in attendance, stating that after his encounter with God “Moses came down from the mountain invigorated: 'I have known the Lord more.'”
“With that strength that gave him prayer, he resumes his task of leading the people to the Promised Land. Because prayer renews: renews. The Lord gives grace to all of us, because prayer is a grace.”
Concluding his reflections, Pope Francis noted how the Holy Spirit “is in every prayer,” and that “You cannot pray without the Holy Spirit. It is He who prays in us, He makes us change our heart, it is He who teaches us to call God ‘Father.’”
“Let us ask the Holy Spirit to teach us to pray, as Moses prayed, to negotiate with God, with freedom of spirit, with courage. And may the Holy Spirit, who is always present in our prayer, lead us on this path.”
During his daily Mass Pope Francis reflected on the prayer of Moses to God in the first reading, saying that true prayer should be like speaking to a friend – with boldness and without fear.
Pope Francis, Daily Mass