My friend, Matt Smethurst of The Gospel Coalition, recently asked me to respond to the following question: "If you had a five-minute audience with the pope, what would you say?" I found the question interesting, especially since I’m scheduled to visit Rome in the fall with TGC’s Collin Hansen and I hope to see some friends of mine in the Vatican. I rather doubt that I’ll get to see the pope, much less have five minutes with him. Nevertheless, here is what I wrote in response to Matt’s question:
At the Balcony of Saint Peter’s Basilica, before pronouncing his urbi et orbi blessing upon thousands of pilgrims gathered in the Piazza San Pietro, the newly elected Pope Francis requested prayer for himself:
“And now I would like to give the blessing, but first – first I ask a favor of you: before the Bishop blesses his people, I ask you to pray to the Lord that he will bless me: the prayer of the people asking the blessing for their Bishop. Let us make, in silence, this prayer: your prayer over me.”
In my five minutes with the pope, I’d like to pray for him. In prayer we are least likely to posture or equivocate, to hate or to flatter, to fudge the truth or to forget to love our neighbor. In addition to serving my imaginary encounter with the pope, the following prayer also exemplifies how evangelical Protestants might pray among their Catholic friends and loved ones:
“Holy Lord who abides in unapproachable light, we worship you. You govern the nations in splendor, in glory, in power. You have made the heavens and earth, and you give us food in abundance. We desire you more than anything.
We are therefore compelled to confess our sins. In selfishness and pride we fail to look heavenward in faith. Our prayers are often born from habit instead of hope, and our affections succumb to the gravitational pull of our sinful hearts. Please forgive us.
Thankfully, Father, in mercy and love you sent your Son—the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. On the cross, Jesus paid the penalty for our rebellion. “It is finished,” he declared. But death could not hold him. By the power of your Spirit, Christ rose from the grave and now reigns at your right hand.
Please help us, Father, to embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, to trust your promises, and to walk in step with your Spirit. May your grace lead us to move beyond ourselves and serve the world—the poor, the homeless, the exploited—everyone who lives in the domain of darkness. Toward this end, I pray for Pope Francis. Please bless the Bergoglio family, the Diocese of Rome, and the millions of Catholics whom he serves. May we have the privilege of seeing Christ exalted through our labor, resulting in Spirit-empowered love, from a pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere faith. Amen.”