I did not find this month’s homework particularly challenging in terms of difficulty, but certainly challenging in finding focused time for its completion. Realizing that I needed to make space for something important aligned well with the lessons on prayer, something for which we often do not make time for. This month I found myself preparing for Holy week worship, the Fall 2016 All-Church Spiritual Formation, a new sermon series on emotional health, medical appointments, Girl Scout cookie sales, a book manuscript, and many other good activities. Taking the time to meditate on prayer, an activity with God that we are to do without ceasing, I had to evaluate whether or not I actually made prioritized time for communication with God in my daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly activities.
As part of my homework I read excerpts from the following two books:
- Prayer and Community: The Benedictine Tradition by Columba Steward, OSB
- Reaching for God: The Benedictine Oblate Way of Life by Roberta Werner, OSB
The excerpt from Steward called out ways of prayer and mindfulness, which included: lectio divina, scholarship, participation in the Eucharist, personal prayer, and silence. The excerpt from Werener, like Steward, called prayer “the work of God,” and also mentioned, importantly, that in the work of God there is no inferior work, no matter the job.
“Indeed nothing is to be preferred to the Work of God.” (RB 43:3) What does that mean to you?
I would simplify that quote to “Nothing is to be preferred to God,” and from there the work He has for me to do is to: 1. love him with all my heart soul mind and strength, 2. love my neighbor, and 3. make disciples. If I love Him (prefer him above all else) I keep His commands, and it’s in the daily details of keeping His commands that I find myself doing the “work of God.” How that may work out practically is that for a time I may prefer fasting over food for the purpose of prayer. In another time I may participate in a feast, be that the sacrament or fellowship meal. It is Jesus who gives meaning to the work and activity, thus His work, whatever that may be in the moment, is preferred.
Benedictine prayer is steeped in the psalms. Benedictine prayer immerses us in the fullness of the scriptures. Benedictine prayer fills us with the Gospel accounts of the life and message of Jesus. As regular as the movement of the clock, Benedictine prayer becomes for us the pulse of the day. Do you feel that prayer is regular in your life? Would you like to pray differently? Do you have any hopes and expectations about your prayer life? Has you prayer life changed in any way since you began your formulation to become an oblate?
Improving my prayer life was a goal in my initial oblate application. I think oblate formation has made my prayer more regular, but I would not yet call it “the pulse of my day.” Prayer is on my list of things to do each day, but I do not always complete my daily lists. I realized that the pulse of my day is my daughter. I awake to get her to school on time. My work day ends when I need to pick her up. We have dinner, play time, story time, and get ready for bed. Once she is asleep, I return to my list of the day. This may be seasonal to this stage of my life, but it is a stark contrast to my day when I retreat at the monastery. Also, while my family does need to know they are my highest earthly priority, my life still must center around Christ.
I have changed a few things in my prayer life already. In an earlier post, I mentioned purchasing a book of Benedictine Daily Prayer. I should have heeded my sponsor, because I found myself with not enough time to learn how to use it, and using the Shorter Christian Prayer book. My phone alarm rings a Gregorian chant at 6:30 p.m. to call me to evening prayer. (I unfortunately forgot to turn that off one evening when I joined the sisters for prayer at the monastery.) This alarm has had an impact on my daughter as well, who shout, “Time for prayer!” when she hears it. Lastly, just as SoulShift brought listening into my prayer life, Benedictine practices have brought Scripture in my prayer life. To read as the Scriptures as prayer, is different than reading for reading’s sake, or meditation, or study. This has become not only a part of my personal prayer time, but also a part of corporate prayer at Oakdale Wesleyan Church.
Benedictine prayer is not mindless repetition of endless formulas-but “immersion in the mind of God.” Is that how you view prayer? How would you describe a person immersed in the mind of God?
“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” Philippians 4:8
“For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, THAT HE WILL INSTRUCT HIM? But we have the mind of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 2:16
A person immersed in the mind of God is not one who follows the old saying, “so heavenly minded that they are of no earthly good.” The mind of Christ is what we are to conform our will to. There should come a point when I don’t have to ask, “What would Jesus do?” because what He would do and what I would do are exactly the same. One way to look at prayer is that time where we better get to know that person that we want to become more like.