February 26, June 27, October 27
Chapter 20: On 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.
Benedict compares intercessory prayer with asking for something from a person more exalted in rank than one is one’s self. Unlike the USA where, theoretically at least, we are all equal to each other, such was not the case in the society in which Benedict lived. While still called the Roman Empire, four years before Benedict was born, Rome had been conquered by the Germanic leader Odoacer, who became the first Barbarian to rule in Rome. Men were ranked hierarchically. So the comparison would have had meaning to those first monks to live under the RB.
Benedict is also more concerned with the quality of one’s prayer and unless one is alone, extemporaneous public prayer is to be short and to the point. And when the monastic superior gives the signal, all are to rise. Please note the phrase “an inspiration of divine grace.” This, according to Benedict is the only reason for prolonged prayer in private. We should not pray just to hear the sound of our own voices, is what this has always said to me.