This question is poignant to me -- I almost detect a twinge of sadness. It seems to me to be part of a bigger question: If I am not good—or faithful—will God give up on me? I guess that’s what touches a sad chord in me.
Over many years of walking with God, and discovering all the ways I am not as good or holy or eternally faithful as I would truly want to be, here is what I have learned: GOD IS UTTERLY MERCIFUL!! God is faithful enough for the two of us!!! No matter when I have slipped, or been too distracted or selfish to be my best self, God does not withhold one drop of love, or tenderness, or support or guidance from me. This is the great miracle of God’s love—it is NOT dependent on what we do. It is not a reward for good behavior.
Sometimes I meet people who are painfully aware of how they have been “behaving badly.” In our human way of calculating and assessing, we expect that if not punishment, we should at least lose major points! But Scripture, theologians, and my own experience have made one thing clear—I do not control the love, guidance, or grace that come to me from God. What freedom!! What cause for joy!! I cannot make God love me more, and I cannot stop God from loving me.
So, DOES it matter if a sister (or anyone for that matter) stops praying? Ah yes …. it does matter. It matters because when I do not pray I make myself less happy, less free, less peaceful. Where will be the grounding in the deep peace of God? Where will be the daily reminder that “In God, I can do all things”? Where will be the moments of silent union that will lift my heart with joy and fill me with a light the world cannot give? Where will my well of compassion get filled when I am feeling almost empty?
If a sister stops prayer, that time of communication with the Holy One, the Source of life and light, I believe her vows will begin to feel empty or burdensome or meaningless. Religious life is a response to a relationship, an unconditional response in love to God forever.
Prayer is the food that keeps that relationship alive, and nourishes the heart of the disciple. But the beauty of God, the truth about God’s love, is that God NEVER gives up on us. God is ALWAYS calling us back. Like the woman who lost her coin (Luke 15:8-10), God will sweep every corner of the universe to bring us back close to the Divine heart.