Rector's Reflections - 23 April

Rector’s Reflections  

Tuesday 23rd April 2024

A Benedictine Approach to Well-Being

What might a Benedictine approach to Well-Being look like?  I think it might well start by asking a rather challenging question: what is our worshipping life like?

For Benedictines, our Well-Being is dependent above all on our worship of God.  This in turn means that worship should be at the very heart of our lives. What does this mean in practice?  It means three things.

To start with, for Benedictines, worship means coming together as a community. Worship is a corporate act. This runs counter to our modern assumption, which tends to focus on the experience of the individual worshipper. But Benedictines focus on the experience of the Christian community as a whole,  rather than on the experience of any one individual.  Communal worship helps to form us into the men and women God wants us to be.

But worship is not only something we do together, as a community.  It must also be something we do regularly. There needs to be a pattern to it.  Many Christians have found it helpful to get into the habit of praying at a particular time and in a particular place.  Such a pattern of regular prayer helps us to develop and experience a spiritual rhythm, which can help us to have a sense of peace and purpose in our lives.   Such rhythms of prayer take many different forms, depending on the particular circumstances of our lives.  Some people make the point of always starting or finishing the day with a set time of prayer.  For example, in our Benefice, we offer a short online service of Night Prayer at 8pm every weekday evening.  It lasts about 10 minutes or so, and it’s a lovely way to establish or preserve a regular rhythm of prayer in the midst of our hectic lives.  This 8pm slot might work for you or it might not, but many Christians have found that some regular pattern of prayer is profoundly helpful in drawing us closer to God.

Finally, Benedictines would say that worship is not only about regularity: it is also about frequency.  Benedictines  would say that the more frequently we engage with God in worship,  the greater will be our sense of Well-Being.  This is counter-cultural for us today in our modern world.  We tend to assume that time spent in worship is in some way wasted  - we do the bare minimum we feel we can get away with,  and leave it at that. But what if time spent in worship is not wasted? What if our productivity and effectiveness actually increase with the amount of time we spend in prayer and worship?  

I should add that Benedictines are great believers in the value of moderation in all things, and so they would say that too much prayer and worship is actually a bad thing.  How much is too much? It may surprise you to know that an average Benedictine monk or nun might well spend several hours a day in worship, and this would not be considered excessive.

And it might further surprise you to learn that Benedictines have found that spending a couple of hours a day in prayer actually increases the amount of constructive and meaningful work they are able to get done in the rest of the day.  Time spent in prayer and worship enables meaningful and effective activity.

So Benedictines would say that if we are serious about improving our Well-Being, we need to start with worship and prayer. We need to prioritise coming together with other Christians, as regularly and frequently as possible in our particular circumstances.  We can meet together in person or online – both have their strengths as well as their drawbacks. The key thing is that we are choosing to come together as Christians to worship God.

I wonder what you think about this Benedictine insight?  What might we do to stop time for worship from being squeezed out of our busy lives?

There are other Benedictine insights as well, and we will look at some of these in the days ahead.

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