Reverence in Prayer

Today we read chapter 20 of the Rule of St Benedict, On Reverence in Prayer. I have commented on this chapter many times, but every time I read it I find something new, something that lights up some aspect or other of prayer that I have been struggling with. If you are not familiar with the text, I suggest you read it over slowly and carefully, or listen to it on our community website, here. The English translation can’t convey the poetic qualities of the Latin, but something of Benedict’s sureness of touch communicates itself: he knew whereof he spoke.

The word that sings from the page for me this morning is ‘purity’. We aim at purity of heart, we keep our prayer short and pure. Purity in this sense means without any admixture of anything else. I wonder how many of us could truthfully say our prayer is pure? We are so busy chattering away to God, asking for this, thanking him for that, we forget that what he most desires is communion with us. Deep down, it is what we most desire too; but we are like Naaman, faced with bathing in the Jordan. We are sure it ought to be more complicated; so we read endless books on prayer and search out different techniques, and all the while the gift of prayer is within us, poured into our hearts at baptism.

Prayer is simultaneously the easiest thing in the world and the hardest. It is also, incidentally, the only activity of this life that endures to the next. Today, try to find a moment or two when you can just be with God, enjoying his presence (even if it seems to you like absence) and allowing him to enjoy yours.

Note: a Twitter friend picked up on an ambiguity in this post. When I said that prayer is the only activity that endures to the next life, I meant that we shall continue to pray (ie love and contemplate God). If a meaning is not clear, it is the writer’s fault.


7 thoughts on “Reverence in Prayer”

  1. “Prayer is simultaneously the easiest thing in the world and the hardest.”

    Particularly true words of wisdom!

    Rather like that moment in the musical, Hello Dolly, when Dolly is teaching Cornelius how to dance, and, in song, he announces “Look everyone, I’m dancing… well, I *was*…” Pure prayer can be so easy and natural, until that moment when we become aware that we are in that state, at which point focus has been lost, and it frequently is difficult to regain…

  2. Rather like the Zen idea that the fist cannot grasp itself? As soon as I think I am praying…suddenly I’m not praying, I’m thinking that I’m praying! How patient God has to be with us…

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