Prayer and Spiritual Direction

A young man who wants to learn how to pray and encounter God seeks out a hermit in a distant cave in a distant desert.

After travelling for many days, he finally locates the hermit and asks “Can you teach me how to pray?” So the hermit takes him to a single shallow well deep in the cave.  The two hold the torch descending into the cave, over the water and they can see their reflection on the water’s surface.

Suddenly the hermit recklessly dunks his head into the well, while the man struggles for dear life.  When the hermit lets him go, the man stands up demanding to know why the hermit did so.

“Your prayer must be as essential as every breath you need to live…”

This begins the journey or prayer, and it is impossible to have a serious prayer life without a spiritual director.

All over people are looking for direction from yoga instructors and self help books, while looking to know which way to go.  This has always been the method of Confessors and Spiritual Directors in our own Christian tradition.

Most of the time people go to their pastor for advice as it is needed, or another elder they respect.

Spiritual Direction is a regular sort of routine, and is not something that happens as a result of a crisis.  Spiritual Direction is necessary for several reasons.

  1. Jesus directs us.  We do not direct Jesus.  Spiritual Directors help us listen to Jesus because its not always easy.
  2. God always surprises us.  Sometimes it takes someone with more experience to point this out.  We do not know where God will lead us or direct us, and we have to let go and accept he graces that are already being given to us.
  3. We were not meant to go this alone.  With all our personal playlists and custom made orders we forget that this world is so much bigger then our preferences.  Sometimes we need another’s help to get through it, and get beyond our momentary preferences.
  4. Wisdom is greater than our ego.  We are bound to be obsessed with protecting ourselves, and not admitting when we are not going about this whole prayer thing right.  We make concessions to our laziness.  Sometimes a spiritual director can point that out to us.
  5. We can mark progress.  It feels like we are going nowhere in prayer sometimes.  It helps to have some encouragement from a spiritual director to remind us of our progress.
  6. Self-criticism becomes our friend.  Meeting with an objective person challenges us to be transparent to them, God and ourselves.  We become quicker at noticing when we are failing to live up to the goal that God sets before us, and we become more resilient to getting back on track.
  7. In everything we are always brought back to God, and that is the job of the spiritual director.  What is God teaching you?  Where is God guiding you?  The Spiritual Director needs to ask the right questions, particularly the questions that bring God into the equation.  That is the cool thing.  It can turn into self-knowledge therapy, and then you start missing out on all the gifts God has.
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