Prayer Should Be ‘Short and Pure’

Today, I dipped into Robert Ellsberg’s wonderful All the Way to Heaven: Selected Letters of Dorothy Day for encouragement and some of Dorothy’s straight-up truth.

In the autumn of 1964, Dorothy spent six months at her daughter’s farm  in Vermont minding her grandchildren their father left. In a letter to artist Fritz Eichenberg during that time, she recounts the children’s spirituality.

“Eric is 16 and Nickie is 14, and they still so trustfully put up their foreheads for me to make the sign of the cross on them before they go to bed at night and before they go to school in the morning. I urge them, as St. Benedict did, to short and frequent prayer, as they go down the road to the school bus in the morning…” (p.304)

The Rule of St. Benedict Dorothy refers to was written to make it easier for us to be good and to love God. Chapter 20, on “Reverence in Prayer” says:

it is not in saying a great deal that we shall be heard (Matthew 6:7),
but in purity of heart and in tears of compunction.
Our prayer, therefore, ought to be short and pure,
unless it happens to be prolonged
by an inspiration of divine grace.

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