“Prayer, work, and holy leisure are the three legs that support the spiritual foundation of Benedictinism.” J Chittister
The great thing about coming to a monastery is that it is a place impregnated with prayer. Not only that but it models the balanced life of prayer, work and holy leisure.
Prayer is a task that is never done in isolation. It may be done alone, but not in isolation. The five times a day we gather here for prayer in the Monastery is a witness to that fact. Prayer is always easier when we pray along with others.
Even when I am not on retreat, I connect three to four times a day online to pray with the monks through their daily recorded live broadcast. This way I know that I do not pray alone but with many others around the world who are praying with me, every hour, every day.
Daily Prayer at St Ottilien Archabbey
5:40 am Vigils and Laudes
6:45 am Conventual Mass (Eucharist)
12:00 pm. Midday Prayer (Mittagshore)
6:00 pm Vespers (Evening Prayer)
8:00 pm Compline (the Final Prayers)
The New Benedictine Community gathers regularily to pray Compline together online. The women gather on Thursday nights and the Men Every other Friday. This keeps our dispersed Benedictine Community connected to each other.
Its not about how many times you pray but how you pray. But practice does make perfect! Since a child I have loved to pray.
I learned my first prayers going to Mass with my grandparents every morning when I visited them in the Dakotas. My grandmother prayed with us daily in the kitchen in front of a crucifix in morning when we awoke and in the night before we went to bed. Prayer for me as a child came naturally because we always did it. My life as a child was surrounded with prayer.
“Prayer that is regular confounds both self-importance and the wiles of the world.” J Chittister
Prayer is and can be the axis on which our lives turn. Prayer holds on to that constant tension we live with daily holding on to past, present and future. Joan Chittister reminds us that “Benedictine prayer puts us in contact with past and future at once so that the present becomes clearer and the future possible.” Prayer helps us to live with all of our daily tensions and existential crisis’. But it also takes us out of our ego-centric lives and forces us out into the world where there are many times greater needs than our own personal whims and wishes.
“Prayer leads us and leavens us and enlightens us. And changes us. It makes us something bigger than we are.” J Chittister
When I ate breakfast this morning, in silence with other monks around me, tears came to my eyes as I reflected on the beauty of prayer and Gods capacity to surround us even when prayer is difficult and challenging. JC says, “To pray when we cannot, on the other hand, is to let God be our prayer.” We can just sit and be…there…with God. During perhaps one of the most challenging periods of my life, it is this prayer which has sustained me more often than not.
So, How about some good tips…for us looking at prayer again?
Sr. Joan gives us some basic guidelines for all of us.
1. God is to be dialogued with in the Word daily—not simply attended to at times of emotional spasm—until little by little the gospel begins to work in me.
2. Prayer must be scriptural, not simply personal. Time for prayer must be set aside and kept: after the children go to school; before breakfast in the morning; in the car on the way to work; on the bus coming home; at night before going to bed.
3. Reflection on the Scriptures is basic to growth in prayer and to growth as a person.
4. Prayer is a process of coming to be something new. It is not simply a series of exercises. Understanding is essential to the act of prayer. Formulas are not enough. Changes in attitudes and behaviors are a direct outcome of prayer. Anything else is more therapeutic massage than confrontation with God.
5. A sense of community is both the bedrock and the culmination of prayer. I pray to become a better human being, not to become better at praying.
Prayer, Silence, Rhythm, Community, Daily…..
“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 our awareness of the Divine Presence in life. We pray to understand things as they are, not to ignore and avoid and deny them.”
Commentary: I know how hard it is for some people to pray. But we should never let up. There will come a moment in time, when you cannot live without that daily rhythm of connection with the sacred. When that happens, you are then on the road to fulfillment and peace.