Make every effort to add to your faith, . . . for if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 1:5-8
I had lunch this week with Ray Simpson who is a pastor and founding member of the celtic Community of Aidan and Hilda at the ancient monastery in Lindisfarne, England (see http://www.aidanandhilda.org). It is a dispersed community with members living in many places around Britain and the world who are joined in fellowship by shared values and practices of the spiritual life.
One of the things Ray spoke to us about was the “Way of Life” that members adopt as a sign of their pilgrimage together. They pledge, among other things, to a commitment to justice, to regular retreats, to lifelong learning and to a rhythm of prayer in their day. They also commit to meeting periodically with a soul friend—what the celtic tradition calls an anam cara—as a way of maintaining their relationship to these pledges.
Since we at Imago Dei are also a dispersed community I thought that both the idea of choosing a “way of life” as well as that of finding a soul friend with whom to share the hopes we have for our spiritual life would be of benefit to us. With this in mind I am reprinting a section from my book, Fan the Flame, on “Cultitvating the Spiritual Life.”
Consider this list of recommendations below for your own life. Consider as well someone with whom you might partner as soul friends. Share honestly with each other the “ways of life” that you already enjoy as part of your spiritual practice. Then take opportunity to consider other practices that you feel God inviting you to grow in. Feel free as well to add other expressions of the spiritual life not listed here.
Recommendations for cultivating the Spiritual Life
These rules, or “ways of life,” are divided into two sections: general (ongoing) and particular (daily). The phrase, “as you can,” which precedes each rule suggests that you should freely accept the limitations of your life at this time.
General Rules of Life
As you can, meet regularly with a small group of people who know and share your deepest desires for relationship with God. Enjoy prayer together, communion, meditations on Scripture, and worship. Share your experiences of the journey of faith as you commit to encourage each other in your spiritual longings.
As you can, live a simple and uncluttered life. Have time for hospitality with everyone you meet in your day, especially God. Invite others into your life, your home, your journey.
As you can, meet regularly with a spiritual director or a friend who can help you remain objective about your spiritual life. Be cautious about overly assessing your sense of spiritual progress, or setbacks, on your own.
As you can, find a regular outlet through which to offer your time, money or labour for the sake of others. Volunteer to serve with a mission or some other help group. Visit the sick, care for the poor, remember the elderly and befriend those around you who are needy in any way.
As you can, continually equip yourself for the sake of others. Study, learn new skills or cultivate the gifts you have so that others may be blessed by them. Endeavour to walk each day as close to God as possible so that the integrity of your spiritual life will encourage this in others as well.
As you can, plan dedicated times for spiritual retreat throughout the year—a day, a weekend, or a week away in silence with God. If you are married, help your spouse get away for times of renewal and recovery of spiritual focus.
Particular Rules of Life
As you can, start each morning thanking God for all that will happen in the day ahead. Anticipate goodness and the Lord’s love for you in all that will take place. Seek the Lord’s purpose in everything that happens as God works in and through you in your day.
As you can, start each day with 20-30 minutes of silent prayer, remembering the ground of who you are, and of who God is in your life. Do this as a way of preparing the disposition of your heart before you apply yourself to your day. The quality of prayer that you bring to your day will determine your effectiveness within it—how you respond, how you interpret, and how you contribute to the events of your day.
As you can, recall throughout the day one of the seven petitions of the Lord’s Prayer. Let the unique character of each of these prayers impress itself deeply on the character of your day. (see https://imagodeicommunity.ca/category/the-lords-prayer .)
As you can, practice Lectio Divina each day—a time of slow spiritual reading and study that has as its purpose the conversion of the heart more than the accumulation of knowledge. Read a short passage of Scripture, or from a journal of spiritual wisdom you have gleaned from others (if you don’t have such a journal, begin one). Let this wisdom enter deeply as the foundation of your life.
As you can, take 5 minutes between the prolonged activities of your day in order to recollect your soul before God. Let times of rest be among the many activities of your day.
As you can, in the evening, spend another 20-30 minutes in silence before God. Review the events of your day, especially noting times of spiritual enthusiasm or of spiritual difficulty. From what God reveals to you in these times, try to adjust your life accordingly. (see https://imagodeicommunity.ca/category/awareness-examen ).
As you can, end each day in gratitude for all that has happened—for what has been given to you, and for what God has given to the world through your life, your thoughts, your prayers. Be grateful for the simple fact of life and for the invitation you have each day to play a constructive part in the incredible story of Christ’s presence unfolding in this world.