A few years ago our local group of clergy met to discuss the level of spiritual maturity in our congregations. What put us onto the topic was research from Willow Creek Community Church that found no correlation between high involvement in the normal activities of congregational life and growth toward spiritual maturity.
Prayer. We read, write, talk and agonize about it, resolve to do it, wish we’d done it more than we actually do it. In this it resembles other pursuits of which people overestimate the intensity, frequency and duration—such as reading, writing and sex.
In the absence of a real, live spiritual director, I often turn to the Desert Fathers for wisdom about living a holy life on earth. My farm is no desert, but enough happens here for me to understand St. Anthony’s reply to the philosopher who asked him how he could be happy without books.