Perfect Prayer Not Required
A Nun's Life welcomes guest blogger Sister Christina Chavez, CDP, who writes about her experience of discerning and being a canonical novice with the Congregation of Divine Providence in San Antonio, Texas.
When it comes to prayer, I used to feel like I had to do it “right” or not at all. I used to think prayer should be totally solemn, still, and … perfect! After all this is the GOD OF THE UNIVERSE, doesn’t that require the best? This put so much pressure on prayer that sometimes if I didn’t have time to do it right, I just didn’t pray at all. Despite that, I still felt a strong desire to grow closer to God, which is what moved me into seeking religious life.
This past year in formation, known as canonical novitiate, I have learned that prayer is not about achieving an arbitrary standard of perfection. Prayer is first and foremost about growing in relationship with God. The key word here is “relationship,” which has truly been the focus of my formation this year.
Canonical novitiate has been a gift to me because it is a time devoted to prayer, reading, and discerning which has allowed me to seek a new perspective and explore just how I was relating to God. Once in spiritual direction, my director helped me see that how a person interacts with a friend can be incorporated into prayer. She helped me see that in each of my close relationships with family and friends, I have cultivated one-on-one time, talked about dreams, complained about difficulties, and celebrated one another. This too is what I can bring to God in my prayer!
I have learned to reflect on what makes a relationship important in my life. With my lifelong friends, there are some with whom, even after a lot of time apart, it is simple to pick up where we left off. With others, there is a strain and it takes time to reconnect. For each relationship, no matter how or where it started, time and commitment are required in order to grow and develop. My best of friends are such because of all that we have gone through together over years of communication, challenges, and celebrations! Now I see how it can be the same when it comes to my relationship with God!
With these new insights emerging about prayer and relationships, I have tried to be more intentional about incorporating prayer throughout my day. Sometimes it is about seeing God our Creator in all living beings and appreciating the abundance of God’s Providence in Creation. This doesn’t always mean that I have to stop my life to retreat to a solemn space and sit in silence.
When I do spend time in Chapel, I do so in order to “waste time with God.” I set aside an hour in Chapel as my way of showing my love for God and my commitment to grow our relationship. This can take the form of meditation, centering prayer, or just sitting in silence -- all of which are still difficult for me because I would rather use words. I am challenging myself, and even when I am not perfect, I remind myself that each distraction provides me the opportunity to CHOOSE to come back to my prayer, to God. I also commit myself to do a Marian devotion 30 minutes every morning, and to reflect on the daily Scriptures for 30 minutes each day. Reading the Gospel daily means I am reading about my friend, which has greatly improved my connection with Jesus. This is what I call my “formal” prayer time, yet the important thing is to set aside some time to spend with my friend, or else how will we have a bond?
During this past year, I have been able to better understand the beauty of this lifelong journey. Prayer will change with different seasons of life, will feel dry at times, and will be fruitful other times! All of this is part of my relationship with God, and since I desire this relationship to grow, I want to include God in every part of my life, even when it is painful or seemingly tedious. It doesn’t take perfection; it takes desire, commitment, and most of all LOVE.
How do you incorporate time with God, your friend?