Personal prayer lies at the heart of monastic life : “a conversation with a friend, alone with the loved one by whom you know you are loved” Sr Teresa of Avila. “When you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret” Mt 6,6.
Depending on the traditions of the different religious orders, one prays in the cell (cellula, small room) or in church, in the solitude of a hermitage (the desert) or before the Blessed Sacrament exposed. Prayer can be brief or prolonged depending on the different orders.
But prayer always remains “a surge of the heart, it is a simple look toward heaven, it is a cry of thanksgiving and love from the depths of suffering or joy” St Therese of Lisieux ; a participation in the prayer of Jesus to his Father ; a single breath which opens out to infinite spaces.
This “long labour” of prayer shows the way, one must advance : “Confident, cheerful with joy on the way of happiness… Blessed are you, o Lord, for having created me !” St Clare.
“All with one accord devoted themselves to prayer” Ac 1,14.
From dawn to the setting of the sun, and also during the night in certain orders, liturgical prayer gives rhythm to monastic life by celebrating the important moments of the day : Matins, Lauds, Tierce, Sext, None, Vespers and Compline, sung in Gregorian, in French or simply recited…
“Pour your hearts out to God, in psalms, hymns and spiritual canticles… You must not simply chant with your voice, but with your heart. We must sing, chant and praise the Lord rather with our soul than with our voice… When the heart is attentive, the voice which chants prepares a way to God” Smaragdus, Benedictine monk, 9th c.
Chanting the psalms in particular expresses in a fresh and vital way the perpetual praise to God along with the cries of the human heart.
Origin of monastic life
The other pillars of monastic life :
Silence and Solitude
Lectio divina, study, meditation