The following principles are derived from the ancient Rule of Benedict of Nursia who lived in the fifth century and left behind a great deal of wisdom.
Prayer is the filter through which we view our world – it gives us a fresh perspective enabling us to perceive the presence of God in all things, the here and now. Benedictine prayer, rooted in the Psalms and other Scriptures, puts us in contact with past and future at once, so that the present becomes clearer and the future possible. Benedictine prayer promotes a spirituality of awareness in that it is regular, universal, converting, reflective, and communal.
Regularity in prayer counteracts the notion that what we do is more important than what we are. Rather, it anchors us to our place in the universe, making us realize that we are small parts of a continuing creation in which we have a purpose. If we keep our souls tied to the consciousness of God, we won’t let seemingly more important things get in the way and will remain in perpetual prayer. The mundane will become holy and even boring tasks will contain God’s saving presence. Regular prayer is important especially when we are not in the mood, are busy, or feel too tired to pray. Ironically, this is when we most need to be spiritually recharged. When we feel like we cannot pray is the time to let God be our prayer – turning our bruised and fragmented selves to the possibility of divine transformation.
Universality of prayer means that prayer is not centred just in the needs of the one praying, but rather is anchored in the needs, wants and insights of the entire universe. It stretches us to become more Christ-like by seeing ourselves in the challenges and struggles of the whole people of God as expressed in the Scriptures. This broadened human consciousness makes us realize that we are not the centre of the universe, but rather a part of all humanity with both its struggles and promises. We are plunged into the feelings and forces of the cosmos and brought up bigger than ourselves.
Reflectiveness in prayer leads us to look at our lives in the light of the gospel, bringing the mind of Christ on the fragments of our lives. This takes time as one wrestles with the Word of God. Reflective reading of Scriptures makes prayer a real experience rather than the recitation of formulas. It draws us into the text and the text into our life. We join those in the past who too were working out their salvation and our hearts become steeped in the story of God in history.
The function of prayer is to change our own mind to conform to the mind of Christ. Contemplative, converting prayer sees the whole world through the eyes of God as a place where the sacred dwells, a place which those who pray can make better, a place where God sweetens living with the beauty of all life. Prayer leads and enlightens us, and makes us bigger than we are.
Communality of prayer means that those praying have a common purpose witnessing to one another, as well as to others, that God is God. Prayer needs to be both private and communal – praying for and with others of like mind. This facilitates our becoming better human beings.
In summary, we pray to see life as it is, to understand it, and to make it better than it was. We pray so that reality can break into our souls and give us back the awareness of the Divine Presence in life. We pray to understand things as they are, not to ignore, avoid or deny them.
Joan Chittister, Wisdom Distilled from the Daily: Living the Rule of St. Benedict Today(HarperSanFrancisco, 1991), chapter 3.
Australian readers may find good values at Fishpond which sells discounted books and delivers them postage-free.
Picture Credit: GraphicStock