He said: "In our journey of catechesis on prayer, today and next week we will see how, thanks to Jesus Christ, prayer opens us up to the Trinity -- to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit -- to the immense sea of God who is Love. It is Jesus who opened up Heaven to us and projected us into a relationship with God."
The pope suggested that before the Incarnation, human beings did not truly know how to pray.
"Not all prayers are equal, and not all are convenient: the Bible itself attests to the negative outcome of many prayers, which are rejected," he said.
"Perhaps God at times is not content with our prayers and we are not even aware of this. God looks at the hands of those who pray: to make them pure it is not necessary to wash them; if anything, one must refrain from evil acts."
The pope said that the "most moving" recognition of the poverty of human prayer came from the Roman centurion who asked Jesus to heal his ill servant (Matthew 8:5-13).
"He felt totally inadequate: he was not a Jew, he was an officer in the detested occupying army. But his concern for his servant emboldens him, and he says: 'Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed,'" he recalled.
"It is the phrase we also repeat in every Eucharistic liturgy. To dialogue with God is a grace: we are not worthy of it, we have no rights to claim, we 'limp' with every word and every thought... But Jesus is the door that opens us to this dialogue with God."
The pope said that before Christ, God's love for humanity remained hidden from many cultures.
"So much so that most mythologies do not contemplate the possibility of a god who cares about human affairs; on the contrary, they are considered bothersome and boring, entirely negligible," he said.
He continued: "God who loves humanity: we would never have had the courage to believe in him, had we not known Jesus. The knowledge of Jesus made us understand this, it let this be revealed to us. It is the scandal -- it is a scandal! -- that we find inscribed in the parable of the merciful father, or in that of the shepherd who goes in search of the lost sheep."
Pope Francis said that Jesus revealed the depth of love found within the Holy Trinity. He added that we could glimpse this mystery in Eastern Orthodox icons.
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Quoting from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, he said: "The sacred humanity of Jesus is therefore the way by which the Holy Spirit teaches us to pray to God our Father."
"And this is the grace of our faith," he concluded. "We really could not have hoped for a higher vocation: the humanity of Jesus -- God who came close to us in Jesus -- made available to us the very life of the Trinity, and threw wide open this door of the mystery of the love of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."