I will never forget my time in Mexico. One thing that stands out is watching people come to the parish church day in and day out to prayer to God. What was most striking about their prayer was the simplicity and directness of it. Often people came in and knelt before the sanctuary, speaking to the Lord from the heart. I watched as men and women would come before the Lord and pour out their heart.
One of the very real dangers for devout people is that their learning gets in the way of an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. I am not trying to argue that people should ignore spiritual reading, or that people should avoid seeking the assistance of seasoned spiritual guides. However, what matters in the end is not technical vocabulary or sophisticated religious experiences, but rather a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
The goal of methods and techniques is to foster such a relationship with our Lord. They are a means and not an end. What I saw in Mexico is a good example of what we are called to do. Due to our cultural context, it might not be appropriate to pray out loud, but we can have the same kind of honesty in our interior life. The great spiritual writers all admit that techniques, methods, and guides to meditation are simply meant to lead us to a free, spontaneous exchange with the Lord from the heart.
This exchange can have a variety of aspects. It can be our ideas, our dreams, and our plans for life. It can be simply our emotions in all their rawness and vigor. It can be simply resting in silence with Lord, letting our breath speak a language deeper than words. The goal is not to achieve something or to experience something unique, but simply to be with the one we love however works best.
If our prayer life is not characterized by such intimacy, we must begin to examine if our religious practices are bearing fruit. This does not mean that we would necessary change our practices or add new ones, but rather that we approach them in a new way.