Chapter 8 begins thirteen straight chapters of instruction regarding prayer in the monastery. For the purposes of my reflections here, I will not be concerned with the particulars of times for prayer and the number and order of the Psalms to be used as our Father Benedict lays them out in these chapters. My reflections will touch on the spiritual and practical underpinnings of St. Benedict's instructions about prayer with the hope of providing support for those who have undertaken a contemplative practice.
Sr. Joan points out that the chapters on prayer follow our Father Benedict's treatise on humility. She writes,
Prayer is, then, the natural response of people who know their place in the universe. It is not designed to be a psychological comfort zone though surely comfort it must. . . . [I]t is an act of community and an act of awareness.
That said, chapter 8 begins by hitting a major artery that feeds any spiritual practice, personal or communal: nighttime sleep. What we do with the time surrounding our sleep can show us a lot about our priorities. Think of what will get you out of bed in the middle of the night: a crying child, a red-eye flight, "the necessities of nature." We orient our real lives according to such things. To be Benedictine is, in part, to orient one's life according to prayer.