Prayer and Benedictine Spirituality Part Two: Living in the Presence of God


April 15, 2021
By: Father Benet Phillips, O.S.B.

In our last issue of Hilltop Headlines, we discussed the importance of prayer in common for not only the monk, but for any person who wants to enter into the mystery of God’s saving presence and action in his or her life.

In this issue we continue our reflection on prayer as a personal encounter with the Divine. In personal prayer, words, techniques, methods and even silence – perhaps most importantly silence can be tools to get us into contact with the living God and which can assist us to live in the presence of God no matter where we are or what we are doing.

In the Gospel, Jesus tells us of the necessity of praying always and not losing heart. How in the world are we to pray always?

There is a story (no doubt apocryphal) about a group of monks who approached their Abbot and asked if they could smoke while they prayed. The Abbot was horrified and said, “Absolutely not.” A few weeks later, the monks being monks, asked again, but this time they asked if they could pray while they smoked. The Abbot was edified and said, “Absolutely.” There are two lessons here: the first: always ask the right question and the second: we can pray always. This story illustrates that each moment of the day can be turned into a prayer if we strive to live continually in the presence of God.

Living in the presence of God is not for the faint of heart. It calls for patience, courage and humility to see God present in each and every moment of the day. Often times I am told, and have said myself, “I don’t have time to pray.” Yet if we cultivate this attitude, this frame of reference of living in the presence of God, the most mundane of tasks and tedious of routines can bet turned into a hymn of praise for our God for each moment can become an encounter with grace. As Saint Teresa of Avila reminded her sisters, “If you can’t find God in the pots and pans, you certainly won’t find him the choir.”

The German Jesuit theologian and spiritual writer, Karl Rahner, wrote a beautiful prayer entitled, “The God of My Daily Routine.” He begins his prayer with these words, “I should like to bring the routine of my daily life before you O, Lord to discuss the long days that are filled with everything else but you.” Rahner goes on to list the many things that fill his day, but he finally comes to the conclusion:

“If it is true that I can lose You in everything, it must also be true that I can find you in everything. If you have given me no single place to which I can flee and be sure of finding You, if anything I do can mean the loss of You, then I must be able to find You in everyplace, in each and everything I do. Otherwise I couldn’t find You at all, and this cannot be, since I can’t possibly exist without You. Thus I must seek You in all things.” Amen.

The Merton Prayer from Thoughts in Solitude

My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Questions for Reflection

1. What’s your reaction to the command of Jesus “to pray always and not lose heart”?
2. Do you think it’s possible to live in the presence of God?
3. What forms of private prayer do you turn to for example, the rosary, Stations of the Cross, Lectio Divina, other?
4. How can silence be prayer?
5. Do the prayers of Karl Rahner and Thomas Merton resonate with you? How? Why?