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August 1, 2013

St. Benedict on Prayer

From the Rule of St. Benedict: Chapter 20 (Reverence in Prayer)

When we wish to suggest our wants to persons of high station, 
we do not presume to do so 
except with humility and reverence. 
How much the more, then, 
are complete humility and pure devotion necessary 
in supplication of the Lord who is God of the universe! 
And let us be assured 
that it is not in saying a great deal that we shall be heard (Matt 6:7),
but in purity of heart and in tears of compunction. 
Our prayer, therefore, ought to be short and pure, 
unless it happens to be prolonged 
by an inspiration of divine grace. 
In community, however, let prayer be very short, 
and when the Superior gives the signal let all rise together.

Reflection on Chapter 20 

In Chapter 20, St. Benedict’s instruction on “Reverence in Prayer” requires us to have certain dispositions: humility, devotion, purity of heart, and tears of compunction.  Firstly, when we pray to God, we must approach Him with “humility” and “devotion” because this is how God first approached us; in “humility” God took on flesh and became man, and in “devotion” to us He poured out His life for the sake of our Salvation.  Therefore, in “humility” we approach God as one who is redeemed at His cost, and in “devotion” we offer ourselves wholly to Him as one who seeks to do His Will. 

Secondly, God does not judge our prayers by their many words, but by our “purity of heart and tears of compunction”.  Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God” (Mt 5:8).  When man is blinded by worldly desire, he cannot “see God,” but when man’s heart solely desires God, he approaches God with the reverence due to Him alone.

Finally, reverence in prayer requires “tears of compunction”.  Tears indicate that we have been touched by Grace.  Therefore, they are both tears of sorrow for our sins and tears of joy for the salvation that has been won for us!     

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