Overcoming Anger with Prayer

As I continue my series of articles offering some reflections based on my reading of Judith Valente’s book, How to Live: What the Rule of St. Benedict Teaches Us About Happiness, Meaning, and Community (Charlottesville, VA: Hampton Roads Publishing. 2018) (See my previous articles, “Being Spiritual in the World Today” and “Striving to be Disciples of Christ.”), I would like to begin today with some words she offers about anger in her chapter on humility.

Valente writes, “I’ve come to realize that there are two main types of anger. One springs from the ego. It rises up when we think we aren’t being respected (as in my bus experience), or when we believe others aren’t behaving as we think they should, or as we would ourselves. This kind of anger imprisons us in an emotional abyss…There is another type of anger, focused outside the self. This anger is aimed at injustices. It is the wrath Jesus expressed when he saw money-changers in the temple; that Dr. King directed at discriminatory laws” (63).

The latter type of anger is directed at things that are not the way God calls them to be. People are not treated as they should be. It calls us to act to bring justice. The former type of anger is real and more personal. We are personally affected. There are times that we may called to speak up over what makes us feel this personal anger. At other times we are called to be silent, not letting the anger control our behavior.

How are we to do this? To manage our anger, we need to pray. Here, I turn to Valente’s chapter on prayer. Prayer is something we should do always. We need to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Now, we cannot literally be saying words of prayer without ceasing. To “pray without ceasing” is always be in a spirit of prayer, relationship with God. Valente speaks of having “distinct times for prayer” (68).

Here, Valente turns to the Liturgy of the Hours (see my article, “The Liturgy of the Hours”). The Liturgy of the Hours is also called “The Divine Office.” Valente speaks about how the word “office” implies work. “Prayer is the work of monasteries” (68) but it is something we are all called to do. It is called “The Liturgy of the Hours” because it calls us to distinct times of prayer throughout the day. Valente writes, “But I know I need a daily rhythm to live in a more intentional way” (69).

We all need to pray throughout the day to keep us grounded in faith. The busyness of life can pull us away from prayer. We need moments of prayer. Valente writes, “African tribesman who lead safaris know the value of pausing…They say they are trying to let our souls catch up with them on the journey” (71). We need to do the same.

The Liturgy of the Hours is primarily based on the 150 Psalms. Valente writes, “St. Benedict placed another type of poetry – the Psalms – at the core of community life. Their general brevity and poetic constructs – frequent alliteration, repetition, parallel ideas – allowed monks who lived before the printing press to easily commit their words to memory” (72). The psalms have a different feel to them than many of the other passages in the Bible. As Valente continues, “The Psalms never go out of style, because the human experience they describe don’t change” (73).

Yes, the world changes but we can still relate to the psalms. Further, when we pray the Liturgy of the Hours, we are joining with others who pray the same, past, present, and future (Valente, 73). At times, we may feel like some of the psalms aren’t relevant today. For me, this comes in what I call the “war psalms.” These are the psalms that speak of dealing with human enemies.

While they may not always seem relevant to me, Valente writes, “There are people today on every continent who live with the constant threat of violence. People whose water is tears, whose companion is darkness. They understand well the impulse from which these Psalms of lament come. When we speak or read these ancient expressions of grief, we join ourselves to the pain felt by others in many parts of the today’s world” (74).

From there, Valente talks about the Our Father prayer and Benedict’s words on including it in both Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer. “Lauds and Vespers must never pass without the superior’s reciting the entire Lord’s Prayer at the end for all to hear, because thorns of contention are likely to spring up. Thus warned by the pledge they make to one another by the very words of this prayer: “Forgive us as we forgive” (Matthew 6:12), they may cleanse themselves of this kind of vice” (75). Maybe you don’t have time throughout the day to pray the entire Liturgy of the Hours. At least make time to pray the Lord’s Prayer.

The Liturgy of the Hours ends each day with Compline (Night Prayer). This is prayed before going to bed so that one might end the day in prayer (Valente, 84). Then, the next morning begins with prayer to help us start our day on the right foot (see Valente, 85).

Make God part of your day. Pray throughout the day to know that God is with you.


Fr. Jeff

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