Monastic Monday: Monastic Vows/Practices Part 6: Prayer

I have previously talked about the Liturgy of the Hours (you can find that post here), but in this post I want to talk about prayer more generally.  All monks and nuns pray.  It is the most important thing that they do.  They do other things of course and many of the other things they do are very helpful and meaningful, but none are as important as prayer.  A Franciscan Friar might feed the hungry, cloth the poor, or preach to the downtrodden; but he does nothing unless these actions are focused through the lenses of prayer.  A Benedictine nun might teach children, write a book, or encourage others on the spiritual path; but unless she starts every day and action with a time devoted to God in prayer, none of these actions will produce a harvest of one hundredfold, sixtyfold, or thirtyfold.  These actions even without prayer are good actions and can be seen as an act of prayer/type of prayer.  I am simply trying to show how important a dedicated time of prayer is.

Some Christians might criticize monastics for praying the liturgy of the hours, without understanding that monks and nuns, pray these hours in addition to their personal prayer time.  The liturgy of the hour is simply a way to call the monastic back to prayer throughout the day.  Reminding them to pray on their own throughout the day, but at times when they might get caught up in other rhythms; the bells ring and they stop their work and walk to the chapel to turn to God.  After they leave they go out remembering God and saying prayers in their heart until they are lost in work or thought, and then are pulled out again by the ringing of the bell.  Some masters might be able to split their attention between their work and prayer.  Or they might constantly have a breath prayer on their mind or passing through their lips.

But all of us are beginners on the path of prayer, some might be further along, but we are all beginners and most of us are constantly starting again, down this path.  True masters of prayer are those who never rest too long on the side of the road.  Many of us will at some point get to where the path is too hard to continue on and will be unable to move on to different types of prayer, and will have to stay where we are.  While we are there we can look off to see some further along the path and might be able to make out little pieces of their encouragement or instructions and this might be enough to get us a little further on the path, or it might sound too foreign to us or we might be unable (for several reasons) to put their advice into action.  Sometimes we might find a person who has gone further along the path but has come back down to help or lead others along the path, these great men and women are wonderful and are truly saints, for they long to see others have what they have received.  They want to see others experience the beauty and love of God.  We could think of them as a woman in a wedding dress, before the wedding service is about to start, seeing a child fall in the mud and disregards her dress and the service to crawl into the mud to comfort and help the child out of it.  The groom of course has no regard or concern for the dress, because he sees what kind of mother his bride will be and is proud of her for helping the child.  I believe this is the way Jesus sees those who travel back down the path to help others along the path.  Others have described this as those who stand at the door ushering others through, after they have already been through the door and have come back through to help others.

So the point is monks pray and some of them come back down the path to help us but all of them walk along the path and cannot help but pray, both in the liturgy of the hours and in their private personal prayer time.

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About Jesse

I am a graduate of Asbury Theological Seminary with a Masters of Arts in Theology focusing on Church History. I am a Third Order Benedictine monk, in the Company of Jesus. I am married to a wonderful woman, we just had a baby Michaela Rose. You can follow me and be alerted of new blog post by following me on Twitter @jtalexanderiv. Or following this blog.
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