"Lord, Teach us how to pray"
Prayer is the heart of the life of the Community of Sant'Egidio and is its absolute priority. At the end of the day, every the Community of Sant'Egidio, large or small, gathers around the Lord to listen to his Word. The Word of God and the prayer are, in fact, the very basis of the whole life of the Community. The disciples cannot do other than remain at the feet of Jesus, as did Mary of Bethany, to receive his love and learn his ways (Phil. 2:5).
So every evening, when the Community returns to the feet of the Lord, it repeats the words of the anonymous disciple: " Lord, teach us how to pray". Jesus, Master of prayer, continues to answer: "When you pray, say: Abba, Father". It is not a simple exhortation, it is much more. With these words Jesus lets the disciples participate in his own relationship with the Father. Therefore in prayer, the fact of being children of the Father who is in heaven, comes before the words we may say So praying is above all a way of being! That is to say we are children who turn with faith to the Father, certain that they will be heard.
Jesus teaches us to call God "Our Father". And not simply "Father" or "My Father". Disciples, even when they pray on their own, are never isolated nor they are orphans; they are always members of the Lord's family.
In praying together, beside the mystery of being children of God, there is also the mystery of brotherhood, as the Father of the Church said: "You cannot have God as father without having the church as mother". When praying together, the Holy Spirit assembles the disciples in the upper room together with Mary, the Lord's mother, so that they may direct their gaze towards the Lord's face and learn from Him the secret of his Heart.
The Communities of Sant'Egidio all over the world gather in the various places of prayer and lay before the Lord the hopes and the sufferings of the tired, exhausted crowds of which the Gospel speaks ( Math. 9, 3:7 ), In these ancient crowds we can see the huge masses of the modern cities, the millions of refugees who continue to flee their countries, the poor, relegated to the very fringe of life and all those who are waiting for someone to take care of them. Praying together includes the cry, the invocation, the aspiration, the desire for peace, the healing and salvation of the men and women of this world. Prayer is never in vain; it rises ceaselessly to the Lord so that anguish is turned into hope, tears into joy, despair into happiness, and solitude into communion. May the Kingdom of God come soon among people!
Towards the Day of the Lord
It is easy for the convulsive rhythms and the frantic deadlines of life to make us organise our time without reference to the Lord. Even Jesus, in the desert, was tempted by the devil who wanted to distract Him from the Father and from his mission. With the Word of God, Jesus takes over the devil. The Word of God announced every evening descends upon the disciples because, by gazing at the face of Jesus, they can imitate him in their lives. The weekly rhythm, taken as a measure of time in the common Prayer of the Community of Sant'Egidio, manifests more clearly, in the convulsive life of the contemporary city, the orientation towards the Lord's day.
Therefore Sunday becomes the climax in the life of the Community! The disciples meet the Risen Lord. It is the day of Emmaus; after listening to the Word of God, the breaking of the bread is celebrated and "The eyes of the disciples are opened and they recognise him". It is the weekly Easter, which announces the eternal one when God will prevail over evil and death for good.
On Monday the week's work begins. Again the Lord's face no longer has the features of the Risen Saviour, but those of the poor, the weak, the sick and the suffering. The evening prayer remembers the poor, those encountered during the day and those far off, sometimes whole nations that suffer, and all are presented to the Lord so that he will console them and free them from evil.
Mary, the Mother of God and first among believers, accompanies the Community in the Tuesday prayer so that everyone learns from her "to keep in the heart ( Luke: 2;51 ) what he has heard and to thank the Lord because he has looked upon us poor men and women. The truth of the Lord's words: " What is impossible with men is possible with God" has become a daily experience for the Community..
The following day, Wednesday, the Communities of Sant'Egidio scattered throughout the world pray for one another and for the whole Church. Everyone prays, in the profound, outreaching and joyful communion that the Lord bestows on his children; prayer embraces the saints, invoked by name, so that they accompany all the communities along the roads of the world.
On Thursday all the Churches, both of the East and the West are remembered so that communion among believers in Christ may increase and the preaching of the Gospel reaches the ends of the earth. The Lord, only pastor of his Church, bestows upon all his infinite love from which pastoral action and commitment to announcing the Gospel spring.
On Fridays the Community focuses on the "Memory of the Cross", so that everyone may remember the origin of salvation and not forget how great the love of God for humankind has been. The link between the beatitudes and the story of the passion leads us to contemplate the infinite "wealth" of the cross, which is the proclamation both of the death of self-love and of the victory of love for others.
Then comes Saturday, day of vigil and preparation for the Lord's resurrection. It is the wait of Lazarus before the tomb to be unbound. In him is heard the cry for help which rises from every part of the earth to be presented to the Lord imploring him to take away the heavy stone that oppressed life, the life of us all, freed from the bonds of sin and saved by God's mercy.
Thus the week closes no longer in a casual or chaotic manner. The days guided by prayer are oriented towards the day that knows no sunset, when, together with the angels, the disciples will sing the Trisagion, which concludes the " Prayer of Light " of Sunday evening.
The "Prayer of the Holy Spirit" reminds the Community to open its heart to the breath of God so as to fight the spirits of evil and increase the works of mercy upon earth. The
Memory of the Apostles and their task of announcing the Gospel, sustains and encourages the commitment of the Community to follow the first witnesses of faith to the end of the earth. The icons, present in every church of the Community, introduce us to the riches of the spiritual tradition of the Eastern Church and help us to direct the eyes of our hearts towards the Lord and to place all our trust in Him.
The Weak Strength of Prayer
Nothing is possible without prayer, all is possible with prayer and faith. With their lack of faith the people of Nazareth even prevented the Lord from working miracles (Luke: 4, 21 - 30). When they didn't pray and fast, the disciples themselves were non able to cure people; Prayer overcomes the helplessness of men. It goes beyond what is believed impossible and allows God to intervene in this world with his infinite power.
James writes in his letter:" And when you ask, you do not receive because your motives are wrong; you ask for things to use for your own pleasure " ( James: 4: 3 ). While taking care of the poor and the weak, the Community learns from them to turn to God with their trust and persistence, and each of us finds himself or herself a beggar for love and peace. Thus, with greater awareness, we can stretch out our hands to the Lord, and the Lord, gracious Father and friend of humankind, will answer with generosity beyond all expectations.
Prayer appears weak to the eyes of people. But, when it is full of faith in the Lord, prayer is strong indeed. It can break down walls, fill voids, uproot violence and increase mercy. Praying together is indeed holy and blessed; it is necessary for the life of every disciple and for the life of the Community, but it is also necessary for the very life of the world. It is written: "Whenever two of you on earth agree about anything you pray for, it will be done for you my Father in heaven" (Mt 18; 19;). That is why the disciple must persevere in common prayer and together be audacious. Prayer, in fact, is a powerful weapon in the hand of believers: it destroys evil and increases love.
In the Prayer of Sant'Egidio, the pleas of those near and far, of the poor and the weak, of our brothers and sisters are united almost as though they are part of a "virtual" but real cathedral which gathers everyone in a single invocation to God. By praying together, we can make ours the words of the apostle Peter: "Come to the Lord, the living stone rejected by man as worthless but chosen by God as valuable. Come as living stones and let yourselves be used in building the spiritual temple, where you will serve as Holy priests to offer spiritual and acceptable sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ "(1 Peter 2, 4 - 5).