Stalled Spiritual Growth: Conclustion
Conclusion to the series, “Stalled Spiritual Growth”
In this 3-part series I have addressed:
- The problem underlying lack of spiritual growth
- The ultimate goal of our spiritual lives
- Suggestions for catalyzing growth
Now I would like to suggest that Reflective Prayer is a wonderful means of catalyzing growth because it brings a needed balance to the different extremes of Christian spirituality today.
Any analysis of the problem of stalled spiritual growth must include a look at two extremes of a continuum that exist within the church today and how Reflective Prayer is relevant to both. (Remember, I am talking about extremes; most of us fall somewhere in-between.) One extreme is represented by those Christians that are very familiar with the Bible but do not pray. They love the Word of God but are cautious about anything that could be labeled “mysticism.” Their faith is intellectually based and their experience of God’s presence is limited. The affective side of their relationship with God may even be avoided. The potential weakness of this group is that they are so busy knowing about God that they fail to have any kind of personal relationship with him. This dilemma can be heard in the words by David Benner, “For many years my knowing of God was primarily a matter of knowing about him. I began to feel dissatisfied with my limited direct experience of God’s presence. I longed to know him personally and experientially, not just know about him.” This group’s strength is in their knowledge of the Word.
The second extreme among Christians today is represented by people who have an interest in “spirituality” but not one that is informed by Scripture. They may be intrigued by the mystical aspects of religion but lack the biblical roots to discern true Christian spirituality. The potential weakness of this group is to become unbiblical or heterodox in their beliefs and practices. Their strength is in their emphasis on the heart and on experiential knowledge of God.
Interestingly, these two extremes can be seen as loosely representing the nature of Protestant and some Catholic forms of spirituality respectively, although there may be groups that do not fit neatly into this categorization (e.g. Charismatic Protestants may tend to lean toward the second extreme and many Catholics are very biblically oriented). The beauty of Reflective Prayer is that, when properly understood and used, it addresses the weaknesses of both extremes and gives voice to their strengths. Because it is biblically informed, Reflective Prayer sets a solid foundation for prayer and contemplation because they emerge from reading and meditation on the Word. And, because the goal of Reflective Prayer is relationship and communion with God, the affective nature of spirituality is also validated and encouraged to grow. This kind of prayer has stood the test of time, and I believe that it has great potential to be an effective solution to the problem of believers being stalled in their growth.
 David G Benner, Sacred Companions: The Gift of Spiritual Friendship and Direction (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2002), 30.
 It is impossible as well as undesirable to try to categorize all Christians into a neatly defined position. These two extremes are generalizations for the purpose of making the point that there is a tendency to lean in one direction or the other.
Excerpted in part from my doctoral thesis, Lectio Divina as a Catalyst for Spiritual Growth: A Case Study Among Mature Believers.
Copyright © 2012 by Katherine Mills Johnson. All Rights Reserved.
Taking It Deeper
1. Where do you fall in the continuum mentioned above?
2. What can you do in your prayer life to strengthen your area of weakness?
Coming up: a 3-part series on What is Scripture-based Reflective Prayer?
Posted on June 10, 2013, in Discipleship, Prayer, Spiritual Formation and tagged Catalyzing Spiritual Growth, Encounter with God, Intimacy with God, Lectio Divina, Prayer, Relationship, Scripture-based Reflective Prayer, Spiritual Growth, Transformation. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.