Whenever we want to ask some favor of a powerful man, we do it humbly and respectfully, for fear of presumption. Howe much more important, then, to lay our petitions before the Lord God of all things with the utmost humility and sincere devotion. 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, unless perhaps it is prolonged under the inspiration of divine grace. In community, however, prayer should always be brief; and when the superior gives the signal, all should rise together. (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, Chapter 20: Reverence in Prayer., p.48).
St. Benedict lived in a time in which nobility was well known for its many privileges. Benedict himself was born of a noble family. His yearning for more is why he left it all to seek union with God. Benedict knew all about humility and respect and what being careful not to presume anything meant. This being the case, he also knew how easy it was to use God as an excuse for focusing exclusively on ourselves. We can be with God in the quietness of our hearts while looking for only what we think would be best for ourselves. In so doing, we miss the whole meaning of praying with a pure heart.
Benedict encourages us to lay our petitions before God “with the utmost humility and sincere devotion.” The word humility is best explained as what it means to be “human.” In short, God is God and we are not. In humility we recognize our limitations and God’s capacity to give us more than we could ever hope for. Our focus needs to be on the Gift-Giver and not the gift. To pray in humility with sincere devotion is to prefer God’s will over our own. We do this by emptying ourselves with faith and trust in God’s gracious providence for our lives.
Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. Our Season of watching and waiting in the calendar of the Church Year is ending. In our prayer and contemplation, we are always watching and waiting to experience God anew in our hearts and lives. The mystery of the Incarnation is our sure and certain hope that God is already here among us; and is waiting to be reborn anew in us. In our prayer and contemplation, God is always revealing Jesus to us in The Holy Spirit and being reborn in our response to God in all aspects of our lives.
Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB