Pope Francis and the prayer of adoration
September 9, 2019
The Catechism speaks of four forms of prayer: blessing and adoration (which can also be spoken of separately), petition, intercession and thanksgiving (nos. 2625-43). Pope Francis emphasized the importance of one of these forms, “the prayer of adoration,” in his Angelus address on Aug. 18. What is this prayer and why should we practice it?
Pope Francis was commenting on Jesus’ words, “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing” (Lk 12:49). The pope said, “Adherence to the fire of love that Jesus brought to earth envelopes our entire existence and requires the adoration of God as well as a willingness to serve others …. This is why I invite everyone to discover the beauty of the prayer of adoration and to recite (or practice) it often.”
When we hear the word “adoration,” we might think first of eucharistic adoration. Pope Francis does practice eucharistic adoration daily, and he often urges others to do the same. However “the prayer of adoration” has a wider meaning. It is the form of prayer often prayed before the Eucharist, but we can pray it anywhere, any time.
Francis spoke about this prayer in more detail in an earlier address on Oct. 20, 2016. He said that to adore is to praise God, to sit in silence and “waste time before the Lord.” Such adoration causes us, he said, to see ourselves as the sinners we are, recognizing our unworthiness to be in God’s presence.
The Catechism speaks of adoration in a similar way: “Adoration is the first attitude of man acknowledging that he is a creature before his Creator. It exalts the greatness of the Lord who made us and the almighty power of the Savior who sets us free from evil. Adoration is homage of the spirit to the ‘King of Glory,’ respectful silence in the presence of the ‘ever greater’ God. Adoration of the thrice-holy and sovereign God of love blends with humility and gives assurance to our supplications” (no. 2628).
Imagine if you had the opportunity for a private audience with the pope, one in which you were alone and could have a real conversation with him. You might prepare a little speech to thank him for his service to God. You might plan to ask him a favor, for prayers or some action he could perform to help you or those you love. You might bring a gift for him. These plans roughly relate to the prayer forms known as petition, intercession and thanksgiving. When you actually stood in his presence, however, you might find yourself too nervous to speak, overawed by the fact that you were standing before the Vicar of Christ.
Now imagine coming into the presence of God himself. Petition, intercession and thanksgiving would definitely have their place, but without a sense of awe, without an acknowledgment of who it was you were standing before, these forms of prayer could be mere presumption. Pope Francis’ words on Aug. 18 teach that if the love of God is blazing in your heart, adoration should at times overwhelm you, bringing you to silence before God.
Adoration is especially appropriate at Mass and before the Eucharist. But adoration can and should be a part of our daily prayer as well. Otherwise, prayer could become focused on ourselves and what we want God to do for us. Adoration preserves the attitude of humility and love that is necessary for true communion with God.
Connie Rossini is a member of St. Peter Parish in Omaha. She is co-author of “The Contemplative Rosary” released by EWTN Publishing and author of four other books on Catholic spirituality.