Benedict’s Rule: More Than Arrangements

Chapter 20 in the Rule strikes me as a kind of “pause” from the sea of details which Benedict has given about the daily worship of the community.  For whatever reasons, he seems to feel it’s time to remind his readers (and us) that the spiritual life is more than arrangements—more than being sure everything’s in order.

He turns to prayer and to the spirit which ought to characterize our praying—reverence.  Benedict stands on Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 6:7 and restates that it’s not our many words that God regards, but rather purity of heart and tears of compunction. (20:3)

Furthermore, he reiterates that personal prayer should be brief, unless directed otherwise by divine grace.  And then he adds, In community, however, prayer should always be brief. (20:5)

In a relatively short and simple chapter, Benedict has done us a great service.  From him (as well as from Jesus and many other of the saints) we learn that prayer is actually more about the disposition of our hearts than the vocabulary of our mouths.  We learn that while arrangements for worship are necessary, they are not ultimate.


About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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