Doing This, Doing That

From time to time someone will ask whether I have done such-and-such — usually, have I finished the book I’m writing, or updated the web site, or done any of the thousand and one things they regard as important and which they know are on my to-do list. The problem is, of course, that my to-do list is actually unachievable. It contains far too much for one lifetime, especially one monastic lifetime where all the doing has to be fitted into an overall scheme of prayer and community life. That doesn’t mean I won’t attempt what is on the list, but I have learned to be flexible about the priorities. The person in distress who telephones and takes up an hour or more becomes the priority of the moment, the way in which God is asking one to use his gift of time. If it means the community meal is late, or other tasks have to be abandoned, tough. The ever-increasing amount of administration required by law or the demands of living in a house where we do all the general maintenance and so on make further inroads into one’s time. Mutatis mutandis, I imagine it is much the same for most of my readers. So, how do we make all this doing into prayer, into a way of becoming closer to the Lord?

St Benedict is very straightforward on the matter. He tells us that every good work we undertake should begin with prayer. In the monastery that means that every job we do begins with a silent commendation of the task to God. We pray before reading, switching on the computer, eating, driving, weeding, writing, doing the accounts, before doing anything, in fact. We do not pray with many words, just a lifting up of the heart and mind to God — and that is the point. Into our busiest moments we need to inject a little interior silence, a small space in which God can act. It is inevitable, with a General Election next week, that everyone should have become much noisier than usual. We are all keen to share our valuable insights (=opinions) with others, and some of us like to immerse ourselves in the storm and fury of media debate. We react rather than reflect, and all those beautiful gifts of the Spirit for which we have been praying so earnestly become forgotten in the rush and tumble of our words.

On the eve of Pentecost, let’s try to find a moment to pause, to be quiet and let the Holy Spirit find a chink in our armour against him. Our priorities may need re-thinking. Our to-do list may be placing absurd burdens on us or on others. Above all, we may be living with such interior clamour that we are wearying ourselves unecessarily. We do not need words to reassess our lives, just a willingness to allow God’s grace to work within us. Of one thing we can be sure, his generosity in responding to our need.

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6 thoughts on “Doing This, Doing That”

  1. Oh perfect! I always forget to pause and pray; now I will try and remember to begin with prayer. Hang on a mo; I didn’t pray before I started typing this comment… “prayer first” is going to be quite a challenge.

    …. pray. read through. check. edit. pause…

    press submit. This is going to take some time before it becomes second nature.

  2. It is important to remember to make space/time for God’s Spirit to work in us. I am lucky as in my workplace we start meetings/most daily tasks with a prayer. A simple routine but it allows people to pause and remember what is important and that God is with us in our tasks however mundane/difficult/fun they turn out to be.

    If only I could apply this to everything I do – how many times have I blundered on regardless, feeling to busy to pause even for a momemt? Once again you (And St Benedict of course) have so much to offer in terms of guidance and inspiration. Thanks.

  3. A lovely thought – “lifting up of the heart and mind to God”.

    I do try, but do not have that monastic discipline that the rule provides – living it out, must be a wonderful way of living.

    But today, we commenced the first of a series of prayer walks around our community, within the parish bounds. The intention behind it was the #ThyKingdomCome initiative, but we discovered in the first five minutes, that there was so many places, people and things that deserved our attention that we could only accomplish in the allocated time, a small proportion of what we hoped to achieve. Is this God, through the Holy Spirit drawing our attention to the needs, which our vision was too narrow to observe – hampered perhaps by the walls of our beautiful Church of all Saints? Something that we are going to explore together once we have time after the Pentecost Feast being celebrated tomorrow.

    But we have already agreed between us, that the benefits of such an exercise are revealing to ourselves spiritually, visually and we need to do more, to cover each corner of the parish, that we have missed today.

    We ended the morning with prayer and sharing food and drink together, not at the communion table, but in a local cafe. As we returned to church, we met a local Baptist Elder, standing outside his church, offering to pray for or with others. Wonderful, another example for us to try.

    I recall the book Small God’s which seemed to point out that there was a God for everything, no matter how minute – an allegory perhaps for the One, true God and Trinity that we worship, who brings the smallest things to our attention, because we tend towards the bigger things. Like politics, neglecting the smaller things to our cost.

    I think that we call all learn by your example and lift the most minute of things to God, before we rush off to the next task.

  4. I can so identify with unnecessarily wearying ourselves interior clamour !
    I pray as we celebrate Pentecost –
    Lord fill us with Your Spirit
    & pour through us Your gift
    to touch whatever we are doing
    whoever we are meeting.

    May God Bless you & Dame Lucy at this sacred time & thank you for your ministry.

  5. Brilliant! but how to remember? suddenly lots of things have been done and I have forgotten entirely to pray. morning offering is not enough!

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