If you’re looking for guidance in the prayer life, pick up Benedict XVI’s A School of Prayer. This exceptional book is a collection of catechetical reflections on prayer given during Benedict’s Wednesday audiences. Each chapter is only a few pages in length, making them perfect guides for focused periods of mental prayer throughout the day. In the first two chapters, entitled “Man in Prayer” Benedict begins by examining the general history of prayer. Why, throughout history and spanning diverse cultures, has man always prayed? Where does this urge to pray come from?
The image of the creator is impressed on his being, and he feels the need to find light to give a response to the questions that concern the deep meaning of reality; a response that he cannot find in himself, in progress, in empirical science.
The remaining chapters are dedicated to prayer in Scripture. Benedict takes the reader into poignant moments in Scripture where prayer is central, like various events in the life of Moses, the Psalms, the martyrdom of John the Baptist, Christ’s agony in the garden and His final moments on the cross, the life of the Virgin Mary, and the Acts of the Apostles. The series wraps up with a two-chapter catechesis on liturgical prayer. And who better to talk about that?
One of the most powerful chapters is entitled, “Silence and Prayer: Jesus, the Master of Prayer”. Benedict discusses the obvious need for silence in our prayer life. But when we are confronted with the silence of God in prayer, what should our response be? When we’re looking for answers, how can silence be of any help? Does silence mean that God isn’t listening? “We feel, as it were, let down; it seems to us that God neither listens or responds.” Benedict reminds us that we have to look deeper. “God knows us in our inmost depths, better than we ourselves do, and loves us; and knowing this must suffice. . . . the more open we are to his silence and to our own silence, the more we truly begin to know him.”
Benedict gave us so much in his pontificate. This outstanding book is a testament to that fact.