Praying the Rule

 

Don Richmond:

St. Benedict

St. Benedict

Introduction

The Rule of Saint Benedict (RB) is as relevant today as it was in the chaos of 6th century post-Roman “civilization.” It speaks efficiently and effectively to the concerns and questions of our rapidly crumbling western culture. It speaks, as well, to each of us. Often, however, we have neither heard nor heeded its important message.

Many messages, or life-lessons, are in fact found in the RB. Instruction regarding community living, relationships, integrity, equity, fidelity and employment are all addressed. However, the principle concern of the RB is prayer; the worship of God (the worth of worship) and liturgy as life (the work of worship).

While planted within a closed community of monks (the “enclosure” of the monastery), and rooted within fixed forms and times of prayer and work, its flowering can be enjoyed by all Christians. That is, as history has clearly demonstrated, those who live outside of the monastic enclosure can also profit by adopting and adapting monastic priorities, principles and practices.

The RB, in both its “Prologue” and “Seventy-Three Short Chapters,” support the priority of prayer. Praying the Rule seeks, in some small way, to contribute to this priority– as well as the profitability that may be derived from it. In keeping with both the context and content of the RB, Praying the Rule is divided into three parts: (1) Reading the Rule,* (2) Reading the Bible** and (3) Reflectively reciting and applying the Prayer after these readings. These, coupled with a heart-felt recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, make a good beginning.

It is a very short and simple process that I trust will encourage devotion to God through a fixed, albeit brief, commitment to reading, reflection and prayer.

-Alcuin, Obl. OSB.

*The Rule of Saint Benedict (Saint Benedict Press, 2007)
** English Standard Version (Crossway Books, 2011)
Art (below): catholic.com, 2007

 

PrayingTheRule

Praying the Rule

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Rule of Benedict (RB): “Listen carefully my son…”

Proverbs 1: 8: “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, / and forsake not your mother’s teaching.”

 

Father,
I am prone to sloth
and disobedience.
By Your mercy help me
to listen, hear, turn,
and put into practice
Your precepts.
In Christ’s Name I pray.

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RB: “With passion filled prayer…”

1 Thessalonians 5: 16: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances…”

 

Father,
I do not want to be
a reluctant follower.
Help me, therefore,
to begin and end
the path You have set me upon
with passion, purpose,
and persistent prayer.
In Christ’s Name
and for his sake.

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RB: “With eyes open to the Divine Light…”

Luke 9: 32: “Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory…”

 

O Lord Jesus Christ,
I have slept again
on the Mountain of Divine Revelation.
Awaken and speak to me
Your Word,
and help me
to hear and heed You,

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RB: “With your loins covered…”

Ephesians 6: 11&14: “Put on the whole armor of God…having fastened on the belt of truth…”

 

Lord Jesus Christ:
You have called me to strong obedience
and peace-making violence,
the violence of love.
Help me
to labor long
with a love so strong
that I will see
and celebrate Your kingdom.

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RB: “Let us hear our Lord, answering and showing us…”

Matthew 11: 15: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear…”

 

Speak to and show me
Your holy way,
O Lord.
Help me
to walk, do, and speak
in Your mercy
by Your mercy
and through Your mercy.

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RB: “The days of our lives are prolonged…”

Matthew: 7: 24: “Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock…”

 

O Lord my God,
You call me
to radical repentance and
reconstruction of my life
upon the Rock.
Establish me upon this True Foundation.
Help me build a strong structure
of righteousness,
that I might truly live
and serve You
by the power of the Holy Spirit.

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RB: “Be prepared to fight…”

Ephesians 6: 12: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against…the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places…”

 

O Lord my God,
You have turned my mind and my heart
to Your will
through Jesus Christ.

In his Name,
by the power of the Holy Spirit,
give me the graces
that human nature cannot give:

Faithfulness to Christ,
Fidelity to his cause,
Fighting with spiritual weapons
to accomplish his will.

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RB: “To safeguard love…”

1 Corinthians 13 -14: 1a: “Pursue love…”

Lord Jesus Christ:
Your way is easy and light…
But beginnings can be hard.

 

By Your mercy and grace
help me to be
Your disciple
by exercising reason, amending faults, and safeguarding love.

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RB1: “Under a Rule…”

1 Corinthians 11: 1: “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ…”

 

Abba, Father:
I am prone to want
my own way,
and wander.

Assist me,
by Your good guidance,
to attain and maintain
stability of heart,
soul, mind, and body,
within the community of all those who are in the True Faith
and Perfect Love of Christ.

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RB2: “An Abbot [Father in Christ] who is worthy…should always remember what he is called…”

Ephesians 4: 1: “I…urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called…”

Almighty Father:
You have spoken to me
in Jesus Christ,
and showed me how
life should be lived.

Help me
to so speak and live
as to bring You glory,
and build Your Church,
in Christ’s Name.

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RB3: “[A]ll be called to Council…”

Hebrews 10: 25: “…not neglecting to meet together…”

 

Father:
You have called Your own
together for prayer,
instruction, fellowship,
and Communion.

Help me to hear
and heed Your calling,
as an obedient child,
of our Lord
Jesus Christ.

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RB4: “These, then, are the tools…of our spiritual profession.”

Philippians 2: 12: “[W]ork out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”

 

O Lord our God:
Working out my own salvation
can be arduous,
with many pressing responsibilities.

Help me
to see all as one,
in You,
through the exercise of love.

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RB5: “[The disciples] do not live according to their own will….”
Luke 22:42: “Father…not my will, but yours, be done….”

 

O God my King,
I want my own way,
but must learn humility
and instant obedience.

Empower and Equip me
to listen, “leave immediately,”
and “quickly put into effect”
Your will in Christ’s Name.

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RB6:  “[I]t is fitting for a master to speak and teach, and it is proper for a disciple to hold his peace and listen.”

Proverbs 10:19: “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, / but  whoever restrains his lips is prudent.”

 

O Living Word,
My Lord Jesus Christ:
Teach me restraint of tongue
and responsibility of speech,
so that I may be renewed
and Your people refreshed,
through the Holy Spirit.

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RB7: “[I]f we are going to reach the highest summit of humility…our ascending actions must set up a ladder….”

Philippians 2: 7: “…[B]ut [Christ] emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men….”

Isaac the Syrian:  “Virtue is not accounted virtue if it is not accompanied by difficulty and by labors” (Daily Readings with St. Isaac of Syria, Templegate Publishers, 1990).

 

My Lord Jesus Christ,
exemplar of greatest humility
by becoming flesh
without sin,
Help me
by the actions You have taken,
to ascend to humility
by descending into Your poverty.

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RB8: “[I]t seems reasonable that [the monks] should rise at the eighth hour of the night [for prayer]….”

Ephesians 6: 18: “[P]raying at all times in the Spirit…with all perseverance….”

 

Lord Jesus Christ,

Swift to pray:

You were vigilant
in prayer and obedience.

Help me
exercise reasonable vigilance
in the same
during the Winter of this life.

RB9: “And thus the Vigils should be brought to an end [with the Kyrie Eleison, Lord have mercy].”

Psalm 143:1: “Hear my prayer, O Lord; /give ear to my pleas for mercy….”

Lord Jesus Christ:
You have ordered
my end and my beginning,
encouraging me to disciplined prayer.

Assist me,
by Your great mercy,
to worship well
and pray fully.

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RB10: “Let [a Reading] out of the Old Testament be said by heart….”

Psalm 119: 105: “Your word is a lamp to my feet / and a light to my path.”

 

Lord Jesus Christ:
Your Written Word
is certain guidance
and a sure defense.

Through the Holy Spirit
help me
to store Your Word in my mind
and establish it in my heart
as a solid foundation for my life.

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RB 11: “On Sunday…Gloria…Alleluia…Te Deum laudamus…Amen.”

1 Thessalonians 5: 18: “[G]ive thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you….”

 

Almighty God,
whose only Son was resurrected
as my perpetual Sabbath

Help me to rest in You,
and praise Your Name,
who alone deserves glory, Amen.

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RB12 / 13: “How to celebrate…on Sunday….”

Hebrews 4: 9 – 10 “[T]here remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God….”

O Lord of Sabbath,
joy of my heart
and peace of my life:
At all times and in all places
You awaken and call me
to ordered prayer and worship.

Give me,
by Your good graces,
those attitudes, words, and actions
most pleasing to You,
that I might begin with worship
and end with the same.

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RB13: “The thorns of scandal are likely to arise…and thus they should be reminded by the covenant of this prayer, namely, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive….”

Matthew 6: 12 …[A]nd forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors….”

 

O Christ our Savior,
You endured the scandal
of suffering and death

Help me to give no offense,
nor take any,
so that I might pray
freely and fully.

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RB 14: “On Saints days…the same order should be observed….”

Hebrews 12: 1: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses….”

 

Almighty God:
You have raised-up
in Your Church
righteous Saints.

Raise me up,
in and through Your righteousness,
to good works
from a pure heart.

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RB15: “From the holy feast of Easter until Pentecost ‘Alleluia’ should be said without intermission….”

Revelation 4: 11: “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, / to receive glory and honor and power….”

 

Alleluia, O Father,
Alleluia,
for Your Son’s sacrifice.

Alleluia, O Christ,
Alleluia,
for Your ascended ways.

Alleluia, O Spirit,
Alleluia,
for Your tongues aflame.

ALLELUIA!

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RB16: “Seven times in the day I have sung praise to you….”

Psalm 119: 62: “At midnight I rise to praise you….”

 

O Holy Spirit,
You have distributed tongues
for proclamation and praise.

Empower me,
by Your great gift,
to speak well and sing faithfully.

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RB17: “We have already arranged the order of the Office…[l]et us now deal with the Hours that follow….”

Ephesians 6: 18: “[P]raying at all times in the Spirit….”

 

Lord,
help me sanctify
my ways and my days,
by ordering
my priorities and practices
as prayer.

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RB18: “Those monks who do not sing over the psalter in the course of a week…show themselves negligent and lack devotion….”

1 Timothy 4: 15: “Practice these things, immerse yourself in them….”

 

Lord God,
Gracious Heavenly Father,
By the Holy Spirit
help me to be
diligent in devotion,
prepared to pray,
ready to die
for Jesus’ sake.

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RB19: “We believe that the Divine Presence is everywhere…especially…when we assist at the Word of God….”

Psalm 2: 11: “Serve the Lord with fear, / and rejoice with trembling….”

 

Lord Jesus Christ:
Assist me to read and reflect upon Your Written Word….

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RB20: “Our prayer, therefore, should be short and pure….”

Matthew 6:7: “[D]o not heap up empty phrases…for they think that they will be heard for their many words….”

 

Lord Jesus Christ:
Help me attain simplicity in prayer
from a pure heart
avoiding superfluity of words.

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RB21: “ [C]hoose men with good reputations and saintly lives….”

1 Corinthians 1:2: “…called to be saints….”

 

O God, my Savior
and Sanctifier,
I have no good
apart from You.

Empower me
by Your great love,
through the Holy Spirit,
to live righteously and serve lovingly.

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RB22: “[L]et the monks always be ready…to the Work of God….”

2 Timothy 4:2: “…be ready in season and out of season….”

 

Lord Jesus Christ:
As with your example in St. Mark’s gospel,
help me always be ready:
quick to pray
swift to serve.

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RB23 – 24: “If any Brother…does not correct his ways….”

Matthew 18:15: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault….”

 

Almighty and Most Merciful Lord,
You have called me
to the listening ear
and responsive heart.

Strengthen me, therefore,
to hear and heed
Your rebuke and restoration
through others.

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RB25: “None of the Brothers should speak with him nor associate with him.”

1 Corinthians 5: 5: “[Y]ou are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.”

 

Lord of All Righteousness,
my sin has separated me
from all true fellowship.

By Your mercy in Christ
help me to repent
and return.

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RB26 -27 (Matthew 9:12): “Those who are well do not need a physician….”

 

Abba Father,
I am sick with my own sin.
Help me, in Jesus’ Name,
to attend to and amend my ways.

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RB28: “The medicines of the Divine Scriptures…and the prayers of the brothers…would do something to cure the sick brother….”

Galatians 6: 1: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness….”

 

O Christ our Healer:
Your Scriptures and Saints
provide help and hope.

Help me,
through the comforts of these graces,
to be restored and renewed.

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RB29 – 30: “[L]et him be received….”

Luke 17:3: “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him….”

 

Lord of Mercy:
You have provided
the means of salvation
through Jesus Christ.

In Christ’s Name,
by the Holy Spirit,
help me
to repent and remain steadfast.

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RB31: “He should care diligently for the sick, the children, the guests….”

James 1: 27: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit the orphans and widows….”

 

God of All Comfort,
whose children are
the poor in spirit,
Help me
follow Your path and plan
of practical discipleship.

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RB32-34: “All things should be held in common….”

Acts 4: 32: “…[T]hey had everything in common….”

 

O Great Giver
of all that is good:
From Your gracious hand
all life receives
daily sustenance.

Help me, therefore,
to hold your gifts
with an open hand and heart;
giving and receiving
as compassion and necessity dictate.

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RB35: “The brothers are supposed to serve each other, and no one should be excused….”

Galatians 5: 13: “[B]ut through love serve one another….”

 

With selfless service,
O Lord,
You came to save.

With such selflessness,
for the salvation of souls,
give me strength for service.

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RB36: “[S]pecial care must be given to the sick….”

Matthew 25: 36: “…I [Jesus] was sick and you visited me….”

 

Lord Christ:
Help me to know
that service to You
is service to others,
because to love others
is to love You.

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RB37: “Their weakness should always be taken into account….

Galatians 6: 2: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ….”

 

Lord Jesus Christ:
In Your mercy You accommodated Yourself
to my weakness.
Through this same mercy
help me arise faithfully
to my neighbor’s need.

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RB 38: “Reading should not to cease….” (sic)

1 Timothy 4: 13: “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture….”

 

Lord Jesus Christ,
You are the Logos,
the Living Word
active in my life.

Empower me, therefore,
by the Holy Spirit,
to attune and attend myself
to what You communicate.

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RB39 – 41: “[I]t is not without some misgiving, that we appoint the measure of…food and drink….”

Romans 13: 14: “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh….”

 

Lord Jesus Christ:
You practiced self-denial
throughout Your life,
suffering, and death.

Help me, therefore,
throughout life’s wilderness temptations,
to be and become
Your faithful follower.

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RB42: “Monks should keep silence at all times, but especially during the hours of the night.”

Habakkuk 2: 20: “But the Lord is in his holy temple; / let all the earth keep silence before him.”

 

Lord,
it is easier to speak
than to listen
and hear.

During this life’s dark night,
help me
keep all silence
that precedes wise speech.

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RB43: “Prefer nothing, therefore, to the work of God.”

Mark 14: 38: “Watch and pray….”

 

Lord God:
Through the Logos
You call me
to the work of prayer.

Assist me to be
instant in prayer,
anxious to preach,
ready to die.

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RB44: “It is enough.”

John 19: 30: “It is finished….”

 

Lord Jesus Christ,
You have made full
and sufficient sacrifice
for my sin.

Strengthen me
to true confession,
total repentance,
and appropriate reparation.

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RB45 – 48: “[T]hat all things may be done at their appointed times.”

Ecclesiastes 3: 1: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”

 

O Lord of Sabbath:
Idleness and inattention are enemies
of community and conscience,
warring against piety and prayer.

Help me, therefore,
to employ myself intently
in Your purposes
and for Your glory.

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RB 49: “A Monk’s life should at all times resemble a continual Lent….”

Matthew 4:1: “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness….”

 

Lord of the Desert,
Your inspired and obedient self-denial
defeated the devil and death,
and encouraged me
to follow.

By the Holy Spirit
lead me,
through life’s wilderness,
to obedience, overcoming,
and effective service.

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RB50 – 51: “The Brothers who work at great distance…should fall upon their knees in the place where they are laboring….”

1 Thessalonians 5: 17: “[P]ray without ceasing….”

 

O Lord Jesus Christ:
You labored long
for  the lost.

Help me in my labor,
with patient and persevering prayer,
to accomplish Your purposes.

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RB52: “If any other Brother should also wish to pray…let him enter without ostentation and pray….”

Matthew 6: 9: “Pray then in this way….”

 

Lord Jesus Christ:
You have instructed us
to pray
simply and sincerely.

Help me, therefore,
to exercise faith
in Your Person,
instruction and provision.

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RB53: “Due honor should be paid to all….”

1 Peter 2: 17: “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God….”

 

O Christ,
You are The Door
of welcome
and gracious hospitality.

May I also
open wide my heart,
and hands,
generously to others.

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RB54 – 55: “[A]nd they were distributed to each according to need.”

Acts 4: 34: “There was not a needy person among them.”

 

Father of Love
and great grace,
You know my needs
before I ask.

Help me,
with this understanding,
to trust in You
and learn contentment.

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RB56: “…with guests and strangers….”

Ephesians 2: 19: “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens….”

 

Savior of the stranger,
Your self-emptying grace
provides all good things.

May I,
no longer a stranger,
radically welcome others
in the same spirit.

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RB57: “[T]hey should exercise their crafts with all humility….”

Isaiah 64: 8: “But now, O Lord, you are our Father; / we are the clay, and you are the potter….”

 

Creator God:
You fashion all life
to accomplish
Your purpose.

Craft me,
Your human clay,
into a vessel of honor
and useful service.

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RB58: “[T]o discover whether he truly seeks God, and is eager for the Work of God, for obedience and for obtaining humility.”

Hebrews 4: 10: “Humble yourselves before the Lord….”

 

Lord Jesus Christ:
You know the hearts
and minds of all,
discerning and dividing flesh from spirit.

Create in me
a clean heart,
and a single eye,
to the humble obedience
of prayer in community.

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RB59: [M]ake the…promise…together with the oblation.”

Numbers 31: 50: “And we have brought the Lord’s offering [oblation]….”

 

Lord Jesus Christ:
You have poured out Your life
for me
as perpetual sacrifice.

Empower me,
as a free will offering,
to promise properly,
pour our my life wisely,
and serve you completely.

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RB60-63: “[I]f they deserve it…”

1 Timothy 3:2: “[B]e above reproach…sober minded, self-controlled….”

 

Lord of all Servants,
You humbly descended
so that I might ascend
to Your great humility.

Strengthen me
to so descend
as to uplift others
to their potential and Your purposes.

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RB63: “[T]he Brothers should receive the Pax, approach the Communion, lead a Psalm, and stand in Choir, according to the order assigned to him….”

1 Corinthians 14:33: “For God is not a God of confusion but of peace [Pax].”

 

God of Order:
You have appointed
all life a season,
place and purpose.

Help me
to order my life
according to Your appointment,
giving place to others.

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RB64: “[H]e must give account for his stewardship…”

Luke 16: 2:  “Turn in the account of your management….”

 

Almighty God,
Who was, and is,
and is to come,
calling all to account.

Help me,
with full knowledge of Your rule
and expectation of Your return,
to be a faithful steward
of Your many gifts.

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RB65: “…[E]nvy arises, along with quarrels, detractions, rivalries, dissensions and disorders…”

James 1: 20: “[T]he anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God….”

 

Lord Jesus Christ:
You are the Prince of Peace who,
through selfless service,
secured the Kingdom.

Help me,
following Your path of peace ,
to step down
in order to ascend to Your will and way.

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RB66 – 67: “[B]eg the prayers of all, on account of the faults they may have committed on the way…”

Hebrews 13: 2: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers….”

James 5: 14: “Let him call for the elders of the church….”

 

Lord Jesus Christ:
Receiving me to Yourself,
You have given
new life.

Anoint me, therefore,
with like Spirit,
to receive and to give
Your offering to others.

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RB68 – 71: “[W]ithout manifesting any pride, resistance, or contradiction….”

Hebrews 13: 17: “Obey your leaders and submit to them….”

 

Lord God:
You have established
all authority,
perfectly in Jesus Christ.

In His Name,
and through the Holy Spirit,
assist me to submit with assurance
to Your sovereign will
exercised, at times, through human authority.

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RB72: “[E]xercise…zeal with most fervent love….”

Galatians 6: 2: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

 

Lord Jesus Christ,
You were zealous
for God’s house
and honor.

Open my eyes to see
the house and honor
of God in my neighbor,
especially my sister and brother.

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RB73: “But for those who hasten towards the perfection of holy living…”

Hebrews 12: 1” [L]et us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus[who is] the founder and perfecter of our faith…”

 

Lord Jesus Christ:
You have run the race,
hastening to obedience
and the just reward
of resurrection and rule.

May I also
follow hard after God,
and run well
to Your reward,
celebrating Your eternal rule.

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“For what page, or what passage is there in the divinely inspired books of the Old and New Testaments that is not a most perfect rule of a [person’s] life?”            -Rule of Benedict, 73

 

DONALDPRICHMONDThe Very Rev. Dr. Donald P. Richmond, a widely-published author, is Priest-Oblate with the Reformed Episcopal Church and the Order of Saint Benedict, and is connected to St. Andrew’s Abbey in Valyermo, California.

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