“Making satisfaction to God in the oratory.” At one time, this was a very foreign concept to me. Prayer to me was something one does in church, at the family table, and most of all in an urgent appeal for help when I had messed something up; usually something messed up big time. All this changed a few years after I became a Presbyterian. That’s when a sense of call to ordained ministry, which I had suppressed for about 30 years, came back to me with a vengeance. I met, Heaven’s Hound. The chase lasted for awhile, but in the end my path was certain.
Shortly after beginning the ordination process, I was drawn into my pastor’s study with what I felt was an embarrassing question, “how do I pray?” Thanks be to God my pastor had the grace not to ask why I had waited until this point to ask! Instead, he introduced me to the liturgy of the hours, otherwise known as the Divine Office.. This way of prayer immediately felt right. More importantly in praying the hours, I gradually felt myself being drawn closer to God.
When Presbyterians are ordained to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament, they give up membership in a congregation, and become instead members of a Presbytery. Upon my ordination I knew I had to find a community to nuture me like my congregation had nurtured me; a place where I would be a worshiper, and not a worship leader. Since I had been drawn closer to God through the Divine Office, I began looking for a worshiping community who used this form of prayer. The search lasted for some time, but eventually I found myself at St. Benedict’s Abbey. I was a bit skeptical about the abbey when I first arrived. Then I fell in love with the community in a matter of hours.
I’m sure one of the main reasons for my rapid change of heart is the way Benedictines frame their work with times of prayer. And in joining them in prayer I found the Divine Office was not only a way to draw closer to God, it was also a path capable of making my work, and my life, a prayer. As an imperfect human being, I will never finish the path. But walking it is a delight! It has also become an answer to many of my prayers.
If I tell God I’m feeling stressed out, the answer that pops into my mind is “pray the hours.” If I tell God I feel there is something I need to change in my life, the answer comes back “pray the hours.” In times of grief the answer is “pray the hours.” If I feel the urgent need to place a congregant’s picture on a dart board, the answer is “pray the hours.”
I know that sounds simplistic. And I know there are those who need another form of prayer. But for me, it works. I find praying centers me when I’m stressed, and allows me to feel God’s love in times of grief. Surprisingly, to me at first, it also allows me to not only drop the dart board idea, but to come to better understand, and to love, those with whom I am in disagreement.
Would you like to enter a river of prayer; a river running deep into the past and far into the future? If so, check out a Benedictine monastery. Of course, you’d be welcome at St. Benedict’s; http://www.SBAbbey.com. In the Divine Office you can find yourself united in prayer with monastics from every time and place. I pray you also find yourself making satisfaction to the One to whom all prayer ascends.