In prayer, there must be a certainty of God's presence, says Benedict XVI.
The Pope stressed this fundamental point today when he continued his catechesis series on prayer at the general audience held in St. Peter's Square.
The Holy Father took up Psalm 3 for a reflection on faith in God's presence as the basis of prayer.
The psalm, attributed to David fleeing for his life, presents the psalmist in a "condition of extreme difficulty," as his foes taunt him with the assertion that God is unable to save him.
"This is the great temptation to which the believer is subjected -- the temptation to lose faith, to lose trust in the nearness of God," the Pontiff reflected. "The just man overcomes this ultimate test; he remains steadfast in the faith, in the certainty of the truth and in full confidence in God, and it is precisely in this way that he finds life and truth."
Benedict XVI suggested that in this respect, Psalm 3 has a personal lesson for today: "In so many problems we are tempted to think that perhaps not even God can save me, that he doesn't know me, that perhaps it is not possible for him; the temptation against faith is the enemy's final assault, and this we must resist -- in so doing, we find God and we find life."
The psalmist, the Pope noted, calls out to God, calls on his name, "Lord."
"[The psalmist] then turns to [God] with an emphatic 'You' that expresses an unshakeable, solid relationship, and within himself he holds on to the certainty of a divine response," the Holy Father explained.
This faith brings the vision of the psalmist's enemy to disappear, he observed. "They have not defeated him because he who believes in God is certain that God is his friend: There remains only the 'You' of God -- the 'many' [foes] are contrasted now by one alone, who is far greater and more powerful than many adversaries."
The Pope affirmed: "The Lord is help, defense, salvation; as a shield he protects the one who entrusts himself to him, and he raises up his head in a gesture of triumph and of victory. The man is no longer alone, his enemies are not as invincible as they once seemed, because the Lord hears the cry of the oppressed and responds from the place of his presence, from his holy mount. The man cries out in anguish, in danger, and in pain; the man asks for help, and God responds."
The Holy Father presented the "interweaving of the human cry and the divine response" as the "dialectic of prayer and the key to reading the whole of salvation history."
"To cry out means to express faith in the nearness of God and in his readiness to listen," he said. "Prayer expresses certainty in a divine presence already experienced and believed in, [a presence] manifested most fully by God's saving response."
The Pope highlighted this certainty as important for prayer.
"The man praying, even amid danger and battle, can lie tranquilly in an unequivocal attitude of trustful surrender," he said. "His adversaries encamp around him, they beleaguer him, they are many, they rise up against him, they deride him and attempt to make him fall; but he instead lies down and sleeps in tranquil serenity, assured of the presence of God.
"And when he awakes, he finds God still beside him, as a guardian who will neither slumber nor sleep (cf. Psalm 121:3-4), who sustains him, who holds his hand, who never abandons him."