The Divine Rule of Prayer – Br. James Koester

Matthew 6:7-15

One of Father Benson’s less well-known books is a small volume entitled The Divine Rule of Prayer or Considerations upon the Lord’s Prayer. It was published in 1866, the same year he, Father Grafton, and Father O’Neill made their professions as the first members of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist.

What is fascinating, in part, about this book, is that in two short chapters, both about 2500 words long, he lays before the reader his understanding of the nature and purpose of prayer. He does this by constantly rooting himself in Lord’s Prayer, of which he says as prayer is the great work of life, so the Lord’s Prayer is the great form and model of [all] prayer.[1]

Many of the themes which Father Benson introduces to his audience in this book, he picks up repeatedly over the course of his life, in his other writings. Reading things published many years after The Divine Rule we hear echoes of what he says within it, perhaps reminding us that most, including it would seem Father Benson, have only one or two things worth saying, and we spend the rest of our lives saying them in different ways. Read More

Prayer with Substance – Br. Keith Nelson

2 Corinthians 11:1-11
Matthew 6:7-15

Monks pray often. But as we learn many times over, quantity or frequency in themselves don’t equal quality or depth. Neither, as Jesus points out here, do length or verbal sophistication in themselves equal substance in the realm of prayer. Even when the phrases are full of meaning, such as those drawn directly from Scripture, it is possible to come to them with absence of mind or heart, and miss the meaning because something in us is missing.

The Christians at Corinth seemed to go weak in the knees for verbal sophistication. In this slightly odd snippet from Paul’s second letter to the church at Corinth, I hear Paul’s sense of humor and his deep sense of irony. The Corinthians are distractible; they are flirtatious with other teachings, other teachers, and other “gospels” with finer phrases and finer reputations than Paul’s gospel, which can be a bit of a downer. Length and sophistication were these teachers’ specialty: in public prayer, in preaching, and in their long and impressive resumes. Paul was capable of great rhetorical sophistication himself, but the gospel he stewards is, first and foremost, treasure in a clay jar, “so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us” (2 Cor. 4:7).  Rather than a super-apostle– a term heavy with irony – Paul is a kind of subapostle. He’s a messenger on a distinctly downward trajectory, whose “resume” includes only the most ridiculous, painful, and shameful things he has endured for the sake of the gospel. Rather than marrying up in the world, spiritually speaking, Paul has married down… and down and down. He has wedded himself to a Bridegroom Messiah who makes him look like a loser. And that is his greatest boast. Read More

Lord, Teach Us to Pray – Br. James Koester

Br. James Koester

Isaiah 55: 6 – 11
Psalm 34: 15 – 22
Matthew 6: 7 – 15

Several years ago, Brother Robert and I found ourselves in a small, subterranean chapel on top of the Mount of Olives, within sight of the Old City of Jerusalem. The chapel where we were had once been a cave, but over the centuries had been dug out and expanded, and then a newer, larger, modern church had been built over this cave chapel. The floor around the altar was littered with scraps of paper on which people had written their prayers, and then dropped through a grille in the floor of the church above us, down into this smaller cave chapel where Robert and I stood. We were there with Sr Elspeth, an American, who had begun her religious life as a Sister of the Order of Saint Anne here in Arlington, but the deeper she entered the mystery of her vocation, the more she realized that it was to the contemplative life that she was called, and so there she was, a Carmelite sister of the Pater Noster Carmel, showing Brother Robert and me the cave where tradition tells us that Jesus taught his disciples the Lord’s Prayer. Read More

Keep It Simple – Br. Jim Woodrum

Br. Jim WoodrumMatthew 6:7-15

Today’s gospel lesson comes from Matthew’s version of the Sermon on the Mount.  In this sermon, which the gospel writer devotes three chapters, we hear the core of Jesus teaching to his disciples.  In yesterday’s lesson we hear Jesus warning about practicing piety before others and then He begins a short discourse on prayer which continues in today’s lesson.  Read More

Where He May Be Found – Br. David Allen

Isa. 55:6-11; Mt. 6:7-15

In our prayer and meditation it is possible to compare our first reading, the Second Song of Isaiah (Cant. 10 or MP II) with our Lord’s teaching to his disciples on the prayer we know as “The Lord’s Prayer”. They both are about our prayer response to God concerning the needs of the world and our own needs.

In my spiritual reading I recently came across an analogy along the same lines in the writings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Jesuit priest, scientist, theologian, and spiritual writer of the last century, in his book, Toward the Future. This was in a chapter on “Reflections on Happiness,” using three different attitudes to life to illustrate differing reactions to words such as those of Isaiah’s Second Song. Read More

Forgive us our debts

Matthew 6:7-15

In his book, How to Forgive, John Monbourquette ( Cincinnati , OH : St Anthony Messenger Press, 2000) tells the story of a missionary who had dedicated himself, heart and soul, to the evangelization of his adopted people. But not everyone appreciated his methods; some even misrepresented them and spoke disparagingly of him to other people. Read More