Prayer dialogue

December 15, 2011

In our December 27
issue, Amy Frykholm describes
the rapid development of the spiritual direction movement, and
Daniel Schrock reviews Angela Reed's book on the subject (subscription required). There are currently
more than 6,000 spiritual directors working in conjunction with Spiritual
Directors International. Spiritual directors often turn to this model after
other forms of spiritual and religious leadership fail them. Below, Ruth Workman tells
the story of the reinvigoration of her ministry through spiritual direction.

For information on
finding a spiritual director, see
Spiritual Directors International. For
questions to ask a potential spiritual director, see
Anam Cara. --Ed.

After 12 years serving
Presbyterian congregations as a church educator, I realized something was
missing. I could write a curriculum, offer a Bible study, train VBS leaders,
lead youth groups. But I felt like nothing was happening below my head. I had
no language to describe what I longed for, but I lived with a sense of
emptiness, like I was going through the motions of faith without any substance.

I began to share my
unease with colleagues, and a friend invited me to a spiritual direction group.
As we gathered in the library of a convent, we sat in silence. I discovered
that silence shared with companions was not awkward but open and inviting.

Next we were introduced
to an Ignatian practice, a prayer of imagination. I was asked to read the
passage where Jesus says, "Take up your cross and follow me." I was
then told to engage my senses. What did I see in that scene? How did it smell?
What sounds did I hear? Were there any taste or touch sensations? I was then to
imagine myself in that story, participate in it as it was revealed in the
Bible, and then allow my imagination to continue to unfold the action and
dialogue of the story.

Until this point in my
life, my prayer had been filled almost entirely with words. I had been taught
the ACTS of prayer--adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication--as a
teen and had continued to use this as my model of prayer, along with devotional
reading. Suddenly in this Ignatian practice, Jesus and I were having a dialogue
rather than my doing all the talking. I had felt like a flower that had been
parched in the desert. Suddenly I was showered with sweet, refreshing water.

Each week as I met with
my new companions, we sat in silence, were introduced to contemplative
practices and then shared our prayer experiences. As I heard how God was active
and inviting in their lives I was showered with more living water. Since then
my passion has been to share this living water, this direct experience of God's
loving presence, with any and all.