We would do well to take our clues from St. Benedict of Nursia. I first became aware of the Benedictines while driving across North Dakota one summer. Bored with the monotony of the Northern Plains, when my wife and I saw a church spire on the horizon, we turned off the interstate to see to whom it belonged. It was a Benedictine monastery. One of the brothers graciously gave us a tour. As we walked through the grounds and the buildings. I kept seeing the words Ora Labora. For all I knew, it was a kind of mouthwash. I was embarrassed at my ignorance, having gone to seminary and taken church history.
It took me a while to get up the courage to ask. What I heard has changed my life.
Benedict founded his Benedictine order as a reaction to the worldliness of the sixth-century church. His slogan was Ora Labora, from the Latin ora, “pray,” and labora, “work.” He taught his followers that to pray was to work, and to work was to pray. Following that rule, the Benedictine order broke down the artificial dichotomy between work and prayer. From there they also bridged the gap between the manual arts and the liberal arts, the physical and the intellectual, and the empirical and the speculative. A great tradition developed in which learning, science, agriculture, architecture, and art flourished. Much of what is considered beautiful “nature” in Europe today, particularly in France, was created by the Benedictine monks who drained swamps and cleared forests.
We must learn that prayer is our chief work. Only then can our work become prayer: real service, real satisfaction. This simple truth alone explains why so many people in the church find themselves exhausted, stretched to the breaking point, and burned out.
Used with permission from Deepening Your Conversation With God by Ben Patterson (c)1999 Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Book House Company. All Rights Reserved, p. 39-40.