Yesterday the community took part in some filming for the Pentecost Sunday edition of ‘Songs of Praise’. As always with the BBC, infinite trouble was taken to try to get things ‘right’ despite a noisier-than-usual A465 and various aircraft overhead, including a circling bi-plane. If we can take so much trouble with something that is, of its nature, ephemeral, why do we tend to be lazy about prayer and the things of the spirit? Is it because nothing much seems to happen in prayer, or not that we can see, anyway; and we do so want to be ‘happening’ people? Or is it that prayer makes demands on our faith and view of the world that action does not? In short, prayer, by its very nature, seems to contradict everything we believe about the wise use of time?
In today’s novena to the Holy Spirit, we ask especially for the gift of wisdom, but not wisdom as it is usually understood. Biblical wisdom includes elements of sagacity (judgement, discernment) but relies principally upon the closeness to God that the wise man or woman enjoys. It is, in an important sense, selfless because God is all in all. Openness to God doesn’t just happen, it has to be cultivated; and that can only be done through prayer. Benedict insists that every good work we undertake should begin with prayer. In the monastery we have the custom of praying before we begin any task, whether that be blogging, cooking, driving, working with the BBC or whatever. In that prayer, we ask that God’s will be done; his purposes achieved; his glory magnified. You could say that we are asking to be freed from the demands of our own ego so that there is room for God to operate. That is the wisdom we ask for today, and every day.