What Psalm 23 teaches us about prayer… in the words of Pope Benedict yesterday.
He who goes with the Lord even into the dark valleys of suffering, of uncertainty and of every human problem feels secure. You are with me: this is our certainty, this is what sustains us. The darkness of night frightens us with its moving shadows, with the difficulty it brings in distinguishing dangers, with its silence filled with indecipherable sounds. If the flock moves after sunset, when visibility is lessened, it is normal for the sheep to become restless, since there is a risk of stumbling or of going astray and becoming lost — and there is the added fear of possible aggressors, who conceal themselves under the cover of night.
In speaking of the “dark” valley, the psalmist uses a Hebrew expression that evokes the shadows of death. The valley to be crossed is therefore a place of anguish, of awful threat and of mortal danger. And yet the man who prays proceeds securely and without fear, for he knows that the Lord is with him. His “you are with me” is a proclamation of unwavering trust and sums up the experience of radical faith; the nearness of God transforms reality, the dark valley loses its danger — it is emptied of every threat. Now the flock can walk in peace, accompanied by the familiar sound of the staff hitting the ground — the sign of the reassuring presence of the Shepherd.