Ardent attention

Daily Reading for February 8

We are told that in Egypt there are brothers who offer up frequent prayers, but that these are very short, like arrows loosed off in rapid succession, for fear that the vigilant, alert attention, so necessary for one who prays, should be weakened or blunted if too long an interval is left between them. Thus they show quite clearly that our attention is not to be forced if it cannot be prolonged, while on the other hand it should not be quickly broken off if it is capable of being prolonged.

So a multiplicity of words should be absent from prayer, but as long as an ardent attention remains, let there be frequent supplications. . . . Praying intensely means repeatedly and fervently stirring the heart, knocking at the door of him to whom we are praying. Indeed, this is more a matter of sighs than of words, and consists of weeping rather than eloquence. So our tears come into his sight and our sighs do not pass unnoticed by the One who created all things by his Word and who has no need of our words.

From Augustine’s letter to Proba, quoted in Praying with Benedict: Prayer in the Rule of St. Benedict by Korneel Vermeiren OCSO (Kalamazoo, Mich.: Cistercian Publications, 1999).

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