Daily Meditations on the Rule of Saint Benedict: Chapter 13:12-14

To be read: February 16, June 17, October 19

The offices of  Lauds and Vespers must never be recited without the Lord’s prayer being said at the end by the Superior for all to hear, because thorns of conflicts that are likely to arise.  13Thus the petition all offer in the prayer in which is said, “Forgive us as we forgive” may cleanse themselves of this kind of evil.  14At the other offices, let only the last part of that prayer be said aloud, that all may answer, “But deliver us from evil”(Mt. 6:13).

The superior, whether Abbot or Prior, or anyone whom the Abbot appoints, is to recite the Lord’s Prayer at the end of both Lauds and Vespers, the two major offices of the day.  The purpose for this prescription, according to Benedict, is to help quell the “thorns of conflicts that are likely to arise.”  When people are living in close proximity to one another, contention will inevitably arise.  But that is also true for those of us living in the outside world.  We all have our idea of how things ought to be run, including the Church.  And conflicts are “likely to arise.”  The recitation of the Lord’s Prayer at every office of the day reminds us to keep our focus on the Lord, and to remain humble, forgiving others as we have been forgiven ourselves.  In the practice of that discipline we position ourselves to experience God’s deliverance from evil.

This all seems so simple, but it is important for us recognize our tendency to recite the common prayers without our hearts and minds engaged.  The Lord warns us in the introduction to this prayer that we must not “heap up empty phrases…[nor] think that [we] will be heard for [our] many words” (Matt. 6:7).  And how much more of a temptation is it to silently ignore the words when someone else is praying those words for us.  We need to keep the “discipline” of prayer.  As liturgical Christians, the practice of our common prayer (“common” as in prayer in community, not “ordinary”) is that someone—usually the clergy—leads us in our prayers.  We need discipline to help us remain focused.

Let us, also, look at the place the Lord’s Prayer has for us in our personal daily round of devotion.  The fact that Benedict calls for the Lord’s Prayer to be said in full both morning and evening, and silently at every other office, offers us a perspective on our own devotion in obedience to Christ.  Jesus said, “When you pray, say, ‘Our Father…’.”  We begin and end each day in obedient submission to His Word, and practice that discipline through the hours of the day.  And in the larger picture, as the faithful throughout the world offer this prayer morning and night, we realize that it is being said in every time zone around the world, so that at any moment in time, somewhere on this planet, the Lord’s Prayer is being said, and obedient worship of Our Father is taking place.  What an honor for us to be a part of that holy undertaking, transcending both time and geography.

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