Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Roberta Bondi on "practicing spiritual disciplines":

"I tell students that there's no way to understand the monastics unless you're trying to approach things from their angle. This is not just intellectual stuff, it's about a relationship with God. I don't care if they end up feeling at the end of the semester as though they haven't succeeded -- whatever that means; they've got to commit themselves to trying.

I ask everybody to include three elements in their prayer. One is some portion of scripture every day. I explain to them the Liturgy of the Hours, and how the backbone of monastic prayer was the psalms. The other part of their prayer is conversation with God in which they really speak their minds. We talk about the things that make it difficult to speak our minds to God, especially about being afraid of God. The third part of their prayer is silence: just sitting in God's presence without saying anything or having any expectations of God or of themselves. I call it kitchen table prayer. Just spending time with God as we spend time with a friend without tallking.

For students who are afraid of God, who have emphasized God's righteousness and their sinfulness, God's bigness and their wormlikeness, I suggest that they find something that doesn't occupy their minds but is pleasant to do, like handiwork, or doing a crossword puzzle, or even reading a detective novel, and to just sit in God's presence. That is a way to begin to learn that God is trustworthy and that God isn't that person they're afraid of, but somebody else.

I emphasize that however much time they've decided to give to prayer, they should cut it back before they even start. Maybe start with ten minutes. Then they can add a little bit if they want to. One of the things that derails prayer faster than anything else is starting with some sort of noble idea of what it ought to be.

I stress that prayer is a pretty ordinary, everyday kind of thing. Yes, it has its high moments, but a lot of prayer is just a matter of showing up."

Day 1

1 comment:

Mary Beth said...

I think the part that struck me most about To Pray and to Love was her emphasis on the Psalms. I had never thought to pray the psalms in my own personal devotional life, but because of her emphasis I started doing so regularly.

I also appreciate her insistence that we not "start big," but that we start off slowly and get used to what we're doing.

Wise woman, that Roberta Bondi...