Friends in the Spirit
In the Christian church, there is a long tradition of spiritual friendship as a way to grow closer to God. What is a “spiritual friend”? How is a spiritual friendship different from other close friendships? In any close friendship, two people will share what is most important in their lives: hopes, dreams, fears, and concerns about relationships, as well as details of their everyday lives. In a spiritual friendship two people may also share such things, but in addition there will be a stated focus on each person’s relationship with God.
John Wesley used to ask, “How is it with your soul?” That is a good starting point for a spiritual friendship. In spiritual friendship people agree to share about their spiritual lives in a way that encourages each one’s growth in God. They might set aside a regular time to talk about what I happening in their prayer lives, how the words of a sermon struck them, or an image that came during a period of silence.
Spiritual friends trust each other and pledge to keep conversations confidential. They practice holy listening and simple joys together. Your goal will be to each know God better and grow on your individual spiritual journeys.
Putting into practice
Spiritual friends may not call it this, but they hear what the other is saying by holy listening. In this way the one who is speaking is heard, understood, and prayed for by the listener. How many friends really listen to you when you talk? How well do you listen when your friends talk? To be a spiritual friend, you must listen well – and you have the freedom to do that because you know that you’ll have a chance to be fully heard.
Practice this exercise with a spiritual friend:
This process may seem rather scripted, but by practicing your listening skills you will learn to be a spiritual friend. Begin with a minute of silence. Choose one of you to go first. That person then has five minutes to talk about “Where do I see God in my life right now?” The listener remains prayerfully silent for these five minutes.
Another minute of silence will give both persons a chance to reflect on how they are feeling. Then the other person has five minutes to talk about “Where do I see God in my life right now?” The listener remains prayerfully silent for these five minutes.
Take one more minute of silence.
Discuss your answers to these questions with your friend:
- How did I feel as a listener? As a speaker?
- How was God present in our conversation?