VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict said the Book of Psalms from the Old Testament is a timeless and powerful "prayer book" that teaches Christians how to communicate with God.
The 150 "inspired songs" were originally gathered by the Jewish people, but were prophetic of the coming of Jesus Christ, the pope said June 21 at the weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square.
Indeed, he said, the prayers from the Book of Psalms were used by Jesus himself, "thus revealing their full and profound meaning."
The pope recently has discussed the importance of prayer in his weekly catechism talks, concentrating on Old Testament figures and the relevance of their stories to contemporary Christians.
Pope Benedict said the prayers, or songs, manifested all the shades of human nature, emotions and faith, making them particularly relevant today for their ability to "teach us how to pray."
Everyone can relate to the complex and often contradictory expressions of the human condition found in the Psalms, the pope said. He cited "joy and suffering, desire for God and feelings of unworthiness, happiness and sense of abandonment, faith in God and painful solitude, fullness of life and fear of death."
The pope said the prayers in the Book of Psalms showed the inseparable intertwining of supplication, laments and praise.
Believers pray to God lamenting a condition but asking for intercession, knowing they will be heard by a good and merciful God. Prayers of praise are offered when supplications have been answered or confessions received with forgiveness, he said.
Many of the psalms are attributed to David, the king of Israel who, the pope said, "was a complex figure, an indefatigable seeker of God" and was someone who foreshadowed the coming and mystery of Christ.
King David, he said, "knew the value of supplication and of praise" in expressing his prayers.
Vatican Radio said Pope Benedict would elaborate on some of the better-known psalms during future weekly audiences.