St Ambrose: How Frequently Are You Praying?

Feast of St Titus the Wonderworker

Ambrose_Square.jpgLET FREQUENT prayer also commend us to God. For if the prophet who was preoccupied with the demands of his kingdom said: “Seven times a day I have praised you” (Ps. 119.164), what does it behoove us to do, who read: “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation” (Matt. 26.41)? Solemn prayers with thanksgiving should certainly be made when we arise from sleep, when we go out, when we are about to eat, when we have eaten, and at the hour of incense, when at last we are going to bed.

But even in bed I want you to join psalms with the Lord’s Prayer in frequent alternation, as also when you wake up and before drowsiness floods your body, so that at the very beginning of your repose sleep may find you free of care about worldly things and meditating upon divine ones. Even Pythagoras, the man who gave philosophy itself its name, used to order the flutist to play softer tunes, every day before he went to bed, so as to soothe his heart, which was anxious with worldly cares. But he, like one who washes a brick, wished in vain to do away with worldly things by means of worldly things, for in seeking a respite through pleasure he besmeared himself with mud instead. We, however, once the filth of our early vices has been washed away, must cleanse ourselves within from every stain of flesh and mind.

Daily, too, before daybreak, we ought to make a point of going over the Creed, which is as it were the seal of our heart. Even when something frightens us we should have recourse to it in our soul. For when is the soldier in his tent or the warrior in battle without his military oath?  

—St Ambrose of Milan, On Virgins

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