A common question posed by Protestants about any Christian belief or practice is: "But where is that found in the Bible?" This post is not about the merits (or lack thereof) of sola scriptura (scripture alone); instead, it will set forth a few ways in which the core of the Benedictine way is supported by the Bible.
One verse sums it up: "They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers." (Acts 2:42).
How does that verse relate to the essence of the Rule of St. Benedict? Acts 2:42 can be broken down into three parts: (1) "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship" - this is found in various Benedictine devotional practices, such as lectio divina ("divine reading"). (2) "The breaking of bread" - the Rule of St. Benedict emphasizes the importance of the Eucharist. (3) "The prayers" - this brief mention needs further explanation, but there is a direct parallel between the pattern of daily prayer used by the first Christians, and the later daily office of prayers set forth in the Rule of St. Benedict.
This note in the Orthodox Study Bible helps explain the reference to "prayers" in Acts 2:42: "Prayers is literally 'the prayers' in Greek, referring to specific liturgical prayers. The Jews had practiced liturgical prayer for centuries, the preeminent prayers being the Psalms. Because the Psalms point so clearly to Christ, Christians immediately incorporated them into (New Testament) worship."
With that background in mind, other Biblical references to the daily liturgical prayers, which were incorporated into the Rule of St. Benedict, become obvious:
"One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, at three o’clock in the afternoon." (Acts 3:1). The apostles were praying the mid-afternoon prayers, later referred to by Benedictines as the office of "None".
"In Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of the Italian Cohort, as it was called. He was a devout man who feared God with all his household; he gave alms generously to the people and prayed constantly to God. One afternoon at about three o’clock he had a
vision in which he clearly saw an angel of God coming in and saying to
him, ‘Cornelius.’ He stared at him in terror and said, ‘What is it,
Lord?’ He answered, ‘Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a
memorial before God.'" (Acts 10: 1-4 - see also the reference at Acts 10:30). Here, Cornelius is praying the mid-afternoon prayers when he had the encounter with an angel.
"About noon the next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray." (Acts 10:9). Noontime prayer in the Rule of St. Benedict is referred to as "Sext".
"About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them." (Acts 16:25). Here, they were praying the night office of "Vigils" - some monastic orders, such as the Carthusians, still pray at midnight. While most Benedictines have adjusted the time frame, they still pray the night office of prayers.
And how far back does the tradition of praying seven times a day go? At least as far back as the Psalms: "Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous ordinances." (Psalm 119:164).
Sometimes, this daily prayer ritual, observed by the apostles and followed to this day by Benedictines and other orders, is referred to as the "sanctification of time" - the hours of the day are made holy by prayer. For those of us who do not live in a cloister, and who have secular jobs, observing the seven daily prayer offices will not be feasible. However, given the Biblical precedent revealing the importance of regular daily prayer at different times, it should be a goal of all Christians - not just monastics - to figure out a daily prayer regimen that works for them, and follow it.
(Thanks to Matthew Dallman, author of the excellent book "The Benedictine Parish" - reviewed at http://benedictinelutheran.blogspot.com/2013/05/the-benedictine-parish.html - for highlighting the relevance of Acts 2:42 to the Benedictine way).