I just finished reading a small but powerful book on prayer by Benediction Sister Joan Chittister entitled, “The Breath of the Soul.” I recommend it to all my readers. Often we think of prayer as saying various words to encourage God to do what we want. Sister Joan outlines 42 different qualities we should bring to our prayer life. I want to comment on a few of them.
The first one is self-knowledge. Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” In our busy world day, we must constantly stop and examine what is going on in our lives. Sister Joan says, “The everything of a deep and demanding prayer life is an awareness and acceptance of the self.” When we know ourselves, we are becoming fully human and are in touch with the divine.
Another chapter deals with gratitude. The mystic Meister Eckhart once said, “If the only prayer you say in your life is ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.” When we bow our heads in gratitude, we are acknowledging that all the works of God are good. We realize our dependence on our Creator who supplies us with every good gift.
Patience is another quality of prayer. Coming to appreciate the difference between God’s time and our time is essential to becoming spiritual people, says Sister Joan. We want things to happen on our time when we want them. It is precisely when we experience difficulty with the discouragement in our prayer life that we become stronger. In God’s good time, God will come.
Responsibility is another one of the 42 qualities. Father Dan Berrigan once said, “Prayer consists for most part in insisting that God do for us what we are unwilling to do for one another. “