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In a noisy city, you have to shout to get your message across. Does that include our prayer? St. Benedict saw the heart of prayer as listening; in fact he tells his monks to listen with the ear of their heart. 

When we pray, we tend to think in terms of asking God to answer our needs, by bringing to his attention a shopping list of requests. Since ancient times, prayer for monastics was spoken of simply as a remembrance of God. The aim of monastic prayer is not so much to answer our needs as to widen one’s vision, to see as God sees, and to love as God loves.  

St. Benedict begins his rule with these words: “Listen carefully, my child, to the master’s instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart” (Rule of St. Benedict, prologue 1).

He reminds us to expect God to communicate with us directly, personally, and asks only that we are still, and listen.

We cannot reach such depths of contemplation by human effort, and only divine grace can make it possible. Under the Spirit’s guidance, when the scripture is prayed over it comes to life and overflows into a realisation of God’s activity in our soul and the world around us. 



Father Chad Boulton, OSB, is a Benedictine monk of Ampleforth Abbey and the spiritual director of Ampleforth Centre for Theology and Spirituality Hong Kong, an innovative mission to young Catholics and all who seek God: or