Stalled Spiritual Growth: Part 3

This is part 3 in a series in which I will be addressing:

  1. The problem underlying lack of spiritual growth
  2. The ultimate goal of our spiritual lives
  3. Suggestions for catalyzing growth

Suggestions for Catalyzing Spiritual Growth

Scripture-based Reflective Prayer

All of us as Christians are called into a dynamic transforming relationship with God. Prayer is central to spiritual growth because it is personal communication with God and a time when we open ourselves up to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.  My research has shown that the spiritual discipline of Scripture-based Reflective Prayer (Reflective Prayer) is an effective means of catalyzing personal spiritual growth especially among those who have been believers for some time.

Reflective Prayer is reading Scripture and praying in a way that transforms our hearts, and disposes us to deepen our relationship with God. Reflective Prayer naturally takes the reader from reading to reflection to responding and resting in the presence of God. It is actually a very simple way of praying. It is attractive because it is all about nourishing our relationship with God and allowing him to take us to a deeper place in that relationship.

Spiritual Maturity

Spiritual Maturity–Like a tree planted by streams of living water

Encountering God Leads to Transformation

This kind of encounter with God is seen with David in the Psalms (Ps 27:4; 63:1-5; 84:10). This very fruitful kind of prayer focuses on spending time meditating on and praying the Scriptures and allowing God to speak to us and transform us into his image. Most importantly, Reflective Prayer includes the component of encountering God; this is what can move us from feeling stagnant to growing spiritually. It has the potential of being a means to help answer the longing to know God personally and experientially. Reflective Prayer has proven to be catalyst to help move people beyond their perceived state of spiritual stagnation into a direct experience of God’s presence.

A Word about Spiritual Disciplines:

Today, many are talking about spiritual disciplines.  All spiritual disciplines are valuable for growing in spiritual maturity.  Adele Calhoun explains their benefit and helps to clear up potential misunderstandings:

Spiritual transformation comes from partnering with the Trinity for change. We bring our ache for change, our longing…our desperation…. Then we keep company with Jesus by making space for him through a spiritual discipline. Our part is to offer ourselves lovingly and obediently to God. God then works within us doing what he alone can do.[1]

Scripture is at the Heart of Reflective Prayer

While there are other spiritual disciplines that can lead to spiritual growth and transformation (Calhoun lists a total of sixty-two[2]), I chose Reflective Prayer because I believe that it combines the best elements of many of the disciplines. Moreover, it is especially attractive because it is based on Scripture and is thus less prone to excess or error. Reflective Prayer has also stood the test of time and has been practiced by Christians since the third century.

Many of the disciplines from Calhoun’s book come into play at one time or another in Reflective Prayer. For example, the four stages (reading, reflection, responding and rest) can incorporate solitude, silence, detachment, confession, self-examination, discernment, humility, journaling, practicing the presence, praying scripture, slowing, rest, secrecy, submission and teachability.  There is enough flexibility to allow each individual to concentrate on what they need the most.

Taking It Deeper

1. How do your spiritual practices lead you into encountering God?

2. How do you regularly “offer yourself up lovingly and obediently to God allowing him to work within you, doing what he alone can do?”

Coming up: a 3-part series on What is Scripture-based Reflective Prayer?

[1] Adele Ahlberg Calhoun, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook:  Practices That Transform Us. (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 19.

[2] Calhoun, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, 11-13.

About Kathy Johnson

Katherine Johnson, D.Min. was born and raised in Oklahoma. She is a wife, mother, ecstatic grandmother of 3, author, teacher, and scuba-diver. Dr. Johnson was received into the Catholic Church in 2013 after 30 years as a Protestant missionary with Wycliffe Bible Translators. Her doctoral research focused on lectio divina as a catalyst for spiritual growth and her latest publications include 8 volumes in the Lectio Divina Catholic Prayer Journal Series. They can be purchased at: She and her husband live in Dallas, Texas.

Posted on February 21, 2013, in Discipleship, Prayer, Spiritual Formation and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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