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Nourished by Our Roots - the Rule of Saint Augustine: Day Six

Written by Fr Richard Peers, posted on Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Day Six

Chapter Two

2:1. Be assiduous in prayer at the scheduled hours and times.

2:2. No one has any business in the prayer-room apart from the particular purpose which it serves; that is why it is called the oratory. Consequently, if some wish to pray even outside the scheduled periods, during their free time, they should not be deterred by people who think they have some other task there.

V.       You have made us for yourself, O Lord. [Alleluia].
       Our hearts are restless until we find our rest in you.  [Alleluia].


With romantic images of medieval monasteries in our heads with their great Abbey churches - like the ruins many of us love visiting at Fountains or Rievaulx -  it’s hard to picture what Augustine’s monastery looked like. Indeed our cathedral church and the buildings here a Christ Church are a very long way from anything Augustine could have imagined. We know that the first monastery founded (in 388) at Tagaste was in Augustine’s family home. No doubt this was a substantial dwelling, probably designed ti accommodate servants as well as the family. Nevertheless with several people living in the community it may not have been very spacious. Bavel (Image Books 1986) suggests that if space and rooms were at a premium there may have been a temptation to use the room set aside for prayer for other purposes. Hence the second part of the section of the Rule we are looking at today.

Having a place for prayer is in my view of utmost importance. It indicates the value we put on prayer and can help us fulfil the first part of this short chapter encouraging us to be regular and frequent in our prayers and not to rely on spontaneity which is the enemy of forming habits of prayer.

A prayer space doesn't have to be grand. A spare box room, corner of a conservatory or a lean to will do. Here at Christ Church I am using part of the cellar under the sub Deanery. You may want to have a candle to light, incense sticks or other things that will trigger a sense of prayer. A prayer stool can help us have a good posture for prayer. Most people find an armchair is not helpful and it is hard to be still for very long when sat in an arm chair. A bible and prayer books of course, some spiritual reading, a cross or icons can also help. Many people like to keep pebbles, leaves or things found on prayerful walks in their prayer corners.

It is said to take up to 90 days to establish new habits in life. people often start a new pattern of prayer with good intentions but soon give up. Having regular times for prayer in the morning and evening is essential to developing a solid prayer life, but don’t give up after a week or even a month. Press on when it seems difficult and if you fail for a few days don’t worry. start again. I’ve always found the morning is the best time to pray. Early evening works, but just before bed is the hardest. It’s a time when many couples chat to each other and reflect on the day and that’s important.

No matter when you pray the significance is to ‘schedule hours and times’. Put it in the diary. Prioritise prayer above everything except real emergencies, it’s the only way it will happen. When I was Head of a London comprehensive school I had my times of prayer including 15 minutes before lunch break, in the diary. It was what helped keep me sane.


May the Lord
grant that we may observe all these things with love,
as lovers of spiritual beauty,
radiating by our lives
the sweet fragrance of Christ,
not like slaves under the law
but as free persons
established in grace.
Through the same Jesus Christ, Our Lord. 



You can find the full text of the Rule of saint Augustine by clicking here