Catholic Benedictine sister, author, and spiritual leader Joan Chittister writes in her newest book, The Breath of the Soul, about how the ways we pray must change over our lifetime in order to meet the changing needs of our souls. God wants to love us in a thousand different ways.
It is so easy to be seduced, even by the good. But once it happens we stand to lose the very gain the finding of the good should have given us.
We find a prayer form that satisfies, even uplifts our spirits, often brings us to a new level of awareness and enlightenment. Everything is going well until the prayer form itself becomes our God.
If I can’t pray every day in this pew at this time, the day is disturbed. If I can’t sing this hymn on this feast in this place, the feast has failed me. If someone changes the translation of the “Our Father,” I can’t concentrate on it. If someone uses universal language for God rather than male pronouns, I get angry. If there are no candles, no incense, no flowers and bright clothes and robes, it can’t possibly be real prayer.
Though those things are all good, all important at some time in some circumstances, none of them is a worthy substitute for God. In fact, the very fact of needing to have them—at whatever cost to anyone else — may be the real sign of how little we’ve learned about God while doing them.
Just as we change as we go through life, so must our prayer forms change in order to nourish the new growth the last phase of our spiritual journey planted in us.
When we stop in the course of the spiritual journey declaring that we have already achieved the end of our search — that we have found the God for whom we seek—it is doubtful that we have found anything more than our own comfort, our own will, the god we have made for ourselves out of our own image. And that is a puny God indeed.
Once we begin a real spiritual journey we will be led from prayer point to prayer point, deeper and deeper into the Mystery that is God. We will be expected to let go so that God can lead us now. And that path has no end.–Joan Chittister
From The Breath of the Soul: Reflections on Prayer by Joan Chittister