The Place of Prayer

RB 52 is all about the monastery’s place of prayer, the oratory. Its simplicity and directness are a useful reminder that some of the things we fuss about — aesthetics, liturgy, vestments, whatever — are secondary to our own inner disposition. Prayer happens because we want to pray, because part of us at least responds to God’s invitation to pray; sometimes we forget that he is always asking us to pray, to enter into union with him, but that is not how Benedict sees things. God is always there; it is we who are so often absent.

As regards the building and its furnishings, all Benedict has to say is, ‘The oratory should be what it is called and nothing else be done or kept there.’ That cuts to the heart of the matter: we pray where we are, in the circumstances in which we find ourselves. We can create helpful conditions by keeping our place of prayer, whether the inner space of mind and heart or the outer space of the place where we pray, uncluttered; but that’s about it. The only other thing he asks of us is that we should be considerate of others and not hinder their prayer by our own noisy devotions.

It is all rather understated, isn’t it? But that is the monastic way of prayer: quiet, simple, persevering. So easy but oh, so difficult, too!

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6 thoughts on “The Place of Prayer”

  1. Thanks for this! Unfortunately, our chapel is located near the main door, and there is an endless stream of traffic, which makes for a lot of noise! The challenge is to retreat to the silence of that inner chapel of the heart…

  2. I treasure these posts commenting on the Rule of St. Benedict. What is being said in so brief a space and sounding simple to do will take a lifetime to perfect in oneself. The concern is, is there enough time!

    “Prayer happens because we want to pray”
    “God is always there; it is we who are so often absent.”
    “we pray where we are, in the circumstances in which we find ourselves.”
    “So easy but oh, so difficult, too!”

    These words will continue to be part of my meditation for long time.

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