"I will sing and chant praise…" (Psalm 57:8)
It is morning in the monastery. Sister silently enters the chapel and takes her place in a choir stall, a chair made exclusively to be a place of prayer.
As the hours move on, Sister will come back and back to the choir stall. Mid-morning, afternoon, evening, just before bedtime… here she returns to chant praise, participate in Mass, pray with Scripture, meet hour after hour with God. Sister begins and continues and ends her day here. She answers the bell’s call to prayer when she feels great and when she has a headache. She comes to the choir stall when she feels close to God, when she's distracted, and when her spiritual life seems barren and dry.
I have learned that, in the cloister of my heart, I, too, have a "choir stall." Mine is a portable place of prayer, traveling with me to supermarket, airplane, mall. I can "sit down" in this prayer-chair regardless of surroundings, seeking God's touch upon my life and on the lives of those around me.
There are no bells to call me to the choir stall. I must build reminders into my own life. For me, discipline is quite difficult; therefore, I find the following practices helpful. Actually, I find them personally necessary if I hope to keep my life focused and on track:
Upon awakening in the morning
, I can enter my choir stall by beginning my day with a prayer. This is the framework upon which the rest of the day will be woven.
At some point during the day,
I try to set aside a block of time to spend with God. I spend time in prayer with Scripture. It may also be possible for me to go to Mass or Adoration. "Even if your daily life in the service of mankind is overburdened with work, it has to include time devoted to silence and to prayer…. Learn to pray! " (Pope John Paul II)
Throughout the morning, afternoon, and evening
, I use brief prayers to return me to my choir stall. I turn my heart to God with inward phrases of prayer, no matter what I am doing or where I happen to be. "Jesus, I trust in You…" "Holy Spirit, be my guide…."
As I begin various activities,
I can enter the choir stall by offering my actions to God and imploring His aid. "O you who fear the Lord, praise Him in the places where you are now. Change of place does not affect any drawing nearer to God, but wherever you may be, God will come to you." (Gregory of Nyssa).
As I retire
, I close the day in my choir stall. "Protect us, Lord, as we stay awake; watch over us as we sleep, that awake, we may keep watch with Christ, and asleep, rest in His peace." (From Liturgy of the Hours, Night Prayer).
Lord Jesus Christ, I ask You to form in me a habit of prayer. Draw me to meet with You day after day, no matter what my circumstances, in the choir stall of my heart.
Text not in quotes © 2011 Nancy Shuman. All Rights Reserved.