Regardless of the changes that each year brings, one thing remains constant at Saint Meinrad: prayer. In the Benedictine motto Ora et labora (pray and work), it is "ora," or "pray," that comes first. And prayer is our primary mission - our most important work. Prayer is the thread that weaves together the fabric of our day.
Prayer remains our unchanging habit in a changing world. On good days and on bad days, we gather in the Archabbey Church for the Liturgy of the Hours and to celebrate the Eucharist. Regardless of the weather, our personal moods and concerns, or the news of the day, we follow our tradition of praying for the Church and its needs.
Almost all the saints define "prayer" in the same way: Prayer is conversation with God. This heartfelt conversation with God should be as frequent as our conversations with other people. And if you're wondering if God would tell us what pleases Him in the way of prayer, well He does.
What pleases Him, first of all, is the celebration of the Eucharist. At our Mass each day, it's really His prayer that we're joining. We're becoming involved in the life, death and resurrection of Christ, who is offering everything for us.
For us Benedictines, there is the Divine Office, or the Liturgy of the Hours, for which we gather in the Church to pray four times a day. When we pray this, we're praying for the whole Church.
In the Divine Office, we pray the Psalms. Every emotion that a human being is capable of is expressed there. There's anger, delight, joy, sadness and despair. It's all tied to dependence on God. No matter what our experience is at the moment, we're tied to God and He brings good from it.
When we pray the Psalms, we bring ourselves as we are. A particular phrase may tap us on the shoulder because of our experience and give us guidance for the day.
We also pray through lectio divina, which is holy reading. In holy reading, we take the Word of God or a reading based on Scripture and, through meditation on it, we talk to the Lord in our own words and listen for His response.
Sometimes, we walk out of prayer with solutions. Other times, we walk out of prayer with the knowledge that there is no solution, but that there is a God who cares.
We don't pray to get what we want, but to accept what God wants of us. Each experience of prayer should be a conversion experience, and conversion is not something we learn once. Rather, we learn it over and over again, according to the specifics of our moment in life.
I like to say, "Whenever we leave the holy place to go to the marketplace, we should carry with us what we've gained." In this way, each expression of prayer is tapping the mind of God for the sake of bringing His will into our lives.
(Excerpted from a talk by retired Archabbot Lambert Reilly, OSB)