We must know that God regards our purity of heart and tears of compunction, not our many words. Prayer should therefore be short and pure. . . RB 20.3-4
The Rule of St. Benedict begins with the word, “Listen.” Benedictines take that to heart at every level of being and activity. Listening deeply allows us to come into contact with the God whom we seek. Faith compels us to keep praying even if God seems absent. We maintain confidence that even seemingly inadequate prayer is pleasing to God.
As St. Benedict notes in his Rule, God desires our hearts, not lots of fancy words and deeds. I experienced this on a recent morning during lectio divina and private prayer. I settled into my prayer space, attempting to quiet my mind. I closed my eyes to shut out visual distractions but could not shut out the inner ones. A hymn the Schola had practiced recently played in my mind repeatedly like a record in a jukebox. I asked God for the grace to listen just to the silence around me and to the birdsong outside my window, rather than to the noise inside my head.
As I listened to the birds, I found it to be remarkable that, over long distances, the birds could hear the subtle nuances of the other’s song in order to respond in a particular way. Their deep and patient listening to one another made me aware, in the silence of my room, of God’s attentiveness to me, waiting on me to call so God could respond.
Tears began trickling down my cheeks. Soon I became aware that the birds had stopped singing. Total silence pervaded – inside and outside. It was as if all of nature paused while silence listened to the prayer-call embedded in those teardrops. The birdsong did not resume until the prayer-tears stopped. Peace filled me. Prayer arising from pure love is the prayer God longs to hear. All of nature, even silence itself, will pause to listen to prayer so pure.
Sister Ann Marie Wainright
Sister Ann Marie Wainright is a Benedictine Sister of St. Scholastica Monastery in Duluth, Minnesota. Originally from New Orleans, Louisiana, she worked as a CPA for many years before earning dual masters degrees in counseling and pastoral studies. Sister Ann Marie is interested how people encounter God in their daily lives and how they use their faith and spirituality in meeting difficult challenges.
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