Director of New Hope at the Crystal Cathedral Psychologist, http://www.christiansoulcare.com/
"I long to
visit you so I can share a spiritual blessing with you that will
help you grow strong in the Lord. I'm eager to encourage you in
your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours. In this
way, each of us will be a blessing to the other" (Romans 1:11-12,
NLT). Do you feel that way about anyone? These words
from the Apostle Paul represent the heart of "spiritual friendship."
Next to trusting
God day-by-day, walking through life with spiritual friends is
the most important thing you could do in your life.
Yes! In a sense, having at least one spiritual friend is
even more important than reading the Bible and prayer! I
(Bill) know that sounds blasphemous, but consider the fact of
our psychological development that except as we learn to love
and be loved in relationships we can't make sense of what we read
in the Bible or grasp in faith the presence of the God we pray
needs at least one essential friend to share their heart with
and to encourage them in their relationship with God and in life.
Some refer to a spiritual friend like this as a soul mate, soul
friend, sacred companion, or prayer partner.
call it, what we're talking about is a friend that you feel safe
with to share honestly about your struggles and growth, your hurts
and your hopes, and to do this as unto Christ. In this friendship
you look to one another as "Christ's Ambassadors" of love.
That doesn't necessarily mean that you talk about God most of
the time or even that you go to church together. It means
that you invite and sense God's presence in this friendship and
this person draws you closer to God and helps you to become more
Isn't a spiritual
friendship like that just for pastors and people in ministry?
No! Every Christian needs a friend like that and Kristi
and I want to show you how!
Dear God we
give you our praise. Father thank you for watching over
us. Jesus we ask you to be our teacher in this class.
Holy Spirit we want to be aware of and welcoming of your Spirit
as we discuss spiritual friendship.
someone you'd like to live that verse with. Perhaps a friend
or a family member. Or someone you'd like to have as a friend.
Now in your
own words, ask Jesus, by his Spirit, to teach you and help you
during this class to grow this relationship into the spiritual
friendship that he desires for you..
name we pray. Amen.
NEED A SPIRITUAL FRIEND
ago in my Christ's Ambassadors Spiritual Growth Group with five
other New Hope Counselors one of the books we read together was
Letters by a Modern Mystic by Frank Laubach. He riveted
by soul with these words:
seldom do anybody much good excepting as we share the deepest
experiences of our souls" (Practicing His Presence, p.
again the Scriptures remind us and show us that we need "deep-spirited
friends" (Philippians 2:2b, MSG), even referring to such friends
as "saints" and "glorious ones" for us to put all our "delight"
in! (Psalm 16:3, NIV). Imagine how beautiful and loving
and profoundly transforming our friendships with one another would
become if we delighted in God's saintliness and glory in one another!
As deep-spirited friends we would help one another to live with
- We'd inspire
one another to worship God, speaking "to one another
with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs" (Ephesians 5:19, NIV).
- We'd encourage
one another to "grow strong in the Lord" by sharing "a
spiritual blessing" (Romans 1:11-12, NIV).
- We'd strengthen
one another to serve God with "outbursts of love and
good deeds" (Hebrews 10:24, NIV).
"One Anothers" here. Deep-spirited friends share the blessing
of God's love with "one another" in very specific ways.
In fact, there are 56 "One Anothers" in the New Testament, NIV
version. (You can find a medley of 22 "One Anothers for
Spiritual Friendship" under "Bible Verses" at our website ChristianSoulCare.com.)
friendship is a very special kind of "One Another "relationship
that is distinct from other types of companionship.
my mentor Ray Ortlund explains, "isn't two people looking at each
other; it's two people looking away together at something else
- at Christ and His purposes" (Lord Make My Life a Miracle,
is formed in you" (Galatians 4:19b, NKJV) - this is the glorious
goal of spiritual friendship, as well as of spiritual mentoring
(or discipleship as Jesus practiced it) which is similar to spiritual
friendship, but more directed and less mutual. David Benner
calls friends like these "Sacred Companions" (this is the title
of his helpful book on spiritual friendship and spiritual direction).
of deep-spirited friendships is the Trinity. In God's very
nature he is a community! One Lord in three persons;
one God in Father, Son, and Spirit. Always they have loved
and honored one another and always they will. Every movement
in the Trinity is one of love, joy, and peace.
to show us that we can be a part of this community and become
a friend to him and his Father and the Spirit. Jesus said,
"As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. You are my friends"
(John 15:9a, 14a, NIV). Is that amazing or what? The
Creator, our Lord and Master, the King of all kings, wants to
be our Friend! In fact, he prayed specifically for
you and I that we might enter into the Trinity's community of
love and glory (John 17:21).
Oh, to be
a friend of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit! Life doesn't
get any better than that! Spiritual friendships help us
to grasp in our hearts this wonderful friendship of God and share
it with others. Deep-spirited friends are Christ's Ambassadors
to one another (2 Corinthians 5:20).
DEVELOP A SOUL MATE: P-R-A-Y
learned that to develop spiritual friendships takes time and effort.
You have to work at the relationships - with God! Most of
all you need to P-R-A-Y. There are four ways that I've found
it helpful to rely on God to help me grow soul friendships:
God: Ask God for a "deep-spirited friend."
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock
and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks
receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door
will be opened."
Initiate by asking to get together, address conflicts graciously,
stay committed through inevitable disappointments.
Share spiritual activities, ask about and share on spiritual
lives, open your heart, attach
To God and to one another. Let the Spirit lead; don't try
to control with your agendas. Tune into God's presence and
action while sharing with your friend and respond.
FRIENDSHIP EXERCISE (Part 1)
I (Bill) want
to share with you an exercise that Kristi and I did on our recent
retreat with a group of pastors and Christian leaders in "The
Journey" program led by the Leadership Institute. Chuck
Miller did this with us to help us to grow in spiritual friendship.
Here's what you need to do: Get out a blank piece of paper and
write the names of anyone who when asked, "Who are your friends?"
would identify you as one of their friends. This is a little
different than writing down the names of your friends. You're
answering the question, "Who thinks of you as a friend?"
Write as many names as you can think of. Do that now.
At the end
of these class notes I'll tell you what to do next. I'm
not telling you know to encourage you not to peek! C'mon,
you're probably reading these words before you made your list!
Stop now. Take a few minutes and write your list.
Later, I'll tell you what to do with it.
SOLITUTDE AND SOUL FRIENDSHIP
"But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and
prayed" (Luke 5:16, NIV). Withdrawing into solitude might
seem to be a movement that conflicts with spiritual friendship.
But Jesus knew that he needed private times alone with his Father
also and so he often stopped his ministering to the clamoring
crowds of people to get alone with the Father. This was
so important to him that sometimes he'd give up food or sleep
in order to pray in private. The strength he found in solitude
strengthened him for ministering to others, as Mark observed and
reported in his gospel: "Jesus could no longer enter a town openly
but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came
to him from everywhere" (Mark 1:45b, NIV).
The saints of God in Scripture and throughout
history have had this same custom. We need times for quiet
aloneness and prayerful reflection just as much as we need times
for deep heart sharing and soul communion with friends.
When we spend time alone we may have to pray through
restless fidgeting or anxious ruminating in order to get centered
and still before God to hear his voice, but then we come to a
deep sense of peace. The words and warmth we receive in
private from God we can share with our friends.
- "Wait for
the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord" (Psalm
- "Be still.
and know. that I am.God. Be still. and know. that I am.
Be still. and know. Be still. Be. Be." (Psalm
And when we
converse deeply with one another we may have to work through relational
fears and conflicts, but when we establish trust we discover a
visible, auditory, tactile opportunity to talk with and listen
to God through our friend. Our friend becomes Christ's Ambassador
to us. The care and comfort we share with our friends strengthens
our faith in times that we're walking alone with God in the dark.
- "We are
therefore Christ's Ambassadors as though God were making his
appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf:
be reconciled to God. Become a friend to God; he's already a
friend to you" (2 Corinthians 5:20, NIV & MSG).
- "Just as
lotions and fragrance give sensual delight, a sweet friendship
refreshes the soul" (Proverbs 27:9, MSG).
If we get
into a rhythm with solitude and spiritual friendship then we find
that each enriches the other.
for many people to keep the balance of being with God in aloneness
and in community. Extroverts (like Kristi), of course, are
drawn to spend time with people because talking with others energizes
them, though they may need encouragement though to work at deepening
their relationships and focusing on spiritual aspects. Introverts,
like me (Bill), are on the other end of the spectrum and are more
naturally contemplative and drawn to spend time alone with God
in solitude and so need to work more on pursuing spiritual friendships.
and I (Kristi) want to mention a few things you want to avoid
when you're offering spiritual care to a friend.
judge! Always be gracious. Matthew 7:1-2" "Do not judge,
or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge
others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it
will be measured to you."
- Don't give
spiritual advice ("The Bible says you should ______.")
Let the "Spirit of Truth" teach and guide. Instead ask
questions that invite your friend to seek God's wisdom.
- Don't become
too dependent. A Sacred Companion should help you to rely more
and more on God. This has been an issue that I've (Kristi) had
to work on with Bill. I've learned to sometimes not go
to Bill, but to pray and journal first. And I've learned
to look to Jesus in Bill.
- Don't worry
about what your friend thinks about you; don't try to manage
your image and reputation; Live for the audience of One.
give spiritual reassurance. ("Don't feel _______.
God will take care of you."). Accept your friend's struggle.
Be patient. Offer God's comfort through the spiritual
hospitality of listening with your heart and prayers.
create God in your friend's image. See your friend as
an "Ambassador for Christ" and a "Sacred Companion" who shares
God's grace with you and encourages you to follow Jesus as your
apprentice for all of life.
IN BIBLE TIMES AND TODAY
& Jonathan should've been rivals, but became soul mates
had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit
with David, and he loved him as himself. From that day Saul
kept David with him and did not let him return to his father's
house. And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he
loved him as himself. Jonathan took off the robe he was
wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his
sword, his bow and his belt."I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother;
you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more
wonderful than that of women" (1 Samuel 18:1-4; 2 Samuel 1:26;
had a spiritual friendship with her mother-in-law Naomi
said, 'Don't force me to leave you; don't make me go home. Where
you go, I go; and where you live, I'll live. Your people are my
people, your God is my god; where you die, I'll die, and that's
where I'll be buried, so help me GOD - not even death itself is
going to come between us!'" (Ruth 1:16-17, MSG).
("Son of Encouragement") was a friend to Paul
"When [Saul, later renamed Paul,] came to Jerusalem,
he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him,
not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas
took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul
on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken
to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the
name of Jesus" (Acts 9:26-27, NIV).
The early Christians gathered for spiritual
"[The apostles] all joined together constantly
in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus,
and with his brothers" (Acts 1:14, NIV).
Us - today!
"Let us not give up meeting together, as some
are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-and
all the more as you see the Day approaching" (Hebrews 10:25, NIV).
HOW BILL HAS PRACTICED SPIRITUAL FRIENDSHIPS
Steve, my (Bill's) best friend from childhood,
who is a pastor in Cleveland today, affirmed me on a birthday
card when I turned 40, "Your friendship and focus has been such
an inspiration to me. Thanks for blowing on the sparks in
my life." Those words mean a lot to me because that's what
spiritual friends do for each other; they focus together on matters
of faith and inflame each other's souls for God. Even though
we live 2,000 miles apart now and may see each other just once
in a given year he's a true Jonathan in my life because when we're
together it's like no time has passed - we just pick up right
where we left off and resume encouraging one another with spiritual
blessings! I still remember the first time he asked me a
probing question about my relationship with God. It riveted
my soul. He was inviting me to go deep with God with him.
I learned to join him and so over the years we've often asked
one another questions like:
are you learning in your quiet times with the Lord?"
it going in your prayer life?"
God been speaking to you lately?"
How do you
develop a friend like this? Be a friend like that!
Offer spiritual friendship to someone else, maybe even a friend
who is already in your life. Try becoming more intentional
about spiritual things in a current friendship; move deeper into
the realm of the soul by discussing your relationship with Jesus
- your struggles and your joys in your faith journey - and asking
open spiritual questions (like those above) to invite your friend
to share. What you want to get to is prayer - inviting God
into the conversation is what spiritual friendship is really all
about. When two people pray for one another it connects
their spirits with God and one another.
easiest way to start a spiritual friendship is simply by sharing
a spiritual experience together that may naturally lead to conversation
about relationship God and prayer. For instance, Kristi
and I (Bill) like to read Christian devotional books and discuss
them and have done this with such classics as, "The Purpose Driven
Life" by Rick Warren, "My Utmost for His Highest" by Oswald Chambers,
"Streams in the Desert by L.B. Cowman, and "Devotional Classics,"
by Richard Foster and James Bryan Smith. We also enjoy sharing
spiritual movies, hikes, conferences, and retreats at a local
monastery. But the most important thing we do is to pray
together everyday. Dr.'s Dave and Jan Stoop, our
mentors, encouraged us to do this years ago for our marriage and
faith and we've found that even just a few minutes together in
prayer is a wonderful way to conclude our evening soul talk and
settle into sleep!
It may seem
intimidating to you dive into spiritual conversations with a friend!
Many people feel that way. I have. In the mid 1990's
I found myself lonely for a male spiritual friend to meet with
regularly. The friend I had been meeting with moved away
and, as I just said, Steve was in Cleveland. So I began
to pray that God would help me to find another Christian man who
I respected and felt safe with, someone that I could meet with
regularly for sharing our hearts and our relationships with God
and praying together. I had prayed for this steadily for
a year and still didn't know where to turn. Then finally
I met Bucky, the Family Ministries Pastor at Mariners Church,
and, knowing that he liked to jog, I got up my courage to ask
him if he'd like to get together to jog, talk, and pray together
sometime and maybe do this regularly if we both decided we wanted
that. It felt like when I was a kid and I call on a friend
and say, "Do you want to play with me?" We've been doing
this semi-weekly ever since!
Like I did
you'll probably have to take a hold of courage to deepen a friendship
or start a new one. One woman in a spiritual growth group
told me, "People tell me I'm too spiritual when I ask spiritual
questions so I hold back." I and the others in our group
rallied around her to affirm her precious spirit and her eagerness
to grow closer to the Lord. She needed to see that friends
who were judgmental or quick to give advice were not good candidates
for spiritual friendship! Instead she needed to bring her
spiritual needs to gracious people who are good listeners and
share her interest in spiritual growth. In our group she
learned what this was like. She disclosed her spiritual
struggles, longings, and intimacies and was affirmed. And
she also discovered the joy of being a blessing to others!
This gave her an experiential reference point for developing spiritual
friendships in her life. Today she's part of a group of
people that meet regularly to pray for one another and to develop
programs to share the gospel with young people.
HAS PRACTICED SPIRITUAL FRIENDSHIPS
mother modeled spiritual friendship to me. For years I watched
her get together with close friends for prayer and for Bible Study.
Sometimes when they met in our house and I was around I'd listen
to them praying and hear them share with concerns for me!
I admired the closeness they shared with one another and the Lord.
a particular spiritual friendship is just for a season in your
life because your life contexts change. Jennifer became
a spiritual friend when I was in college at Christian university.
She prayed with me and encouraged me when I met Bill. Our
friendship diminished when we were dating!
When I was
married and in graduate school I became very lonely for a female
spiritual friend. I met a woman named Sue and for two years
we got together to pray and encourage one another.
Then the Lord
led Bill and I into a couples small group at church and I met
a woman named Debbie. The first year in that group I worked
at developing a relationship with a woman named Debbie and we
became prayer partners. We walked and talked and prayed
for one another and our young children. Often we did so
as we pushed our kids in strollers around the lake near our house.
We encouraged one another in our relationship with the Lord.
That relationship lasted ten years and then she moved away.
Bill and I joined a group of pastors and Christian leaders in
a retreat-based program of spiritual formation. It's called
"The Journey" and we're developing spiritual friendships with
people there as we worship, learn, practice spiritual disciplines,
converse and pray.
FRIENDSHIP EXERCISE (Part 2)
Did you think
I forgot? Get out your list of names of everyone you could
think of who would say that you are a friend to him or her.
one or two of the people on this maybe you'd like to pray that
your relationship would blossom in spiritual friendship along
the lines of what we've discussed here. Then consider sharing
with that friend about what you've read here. Perhaps you'd
like to ask your friend to practice having a spiritual conversation
with you? If so you can use my (Bill's) article "How do
I Have a Spiritual Conversation?" as a guide.
the main point of this exercise. Do you have your list of
names? Is Jesus' name on that list? Probably not.
And yet, right before I asked you to make your list I talked to
you about how each of us could become a friend to the Father,
Son, and Spirit and I read to you Jesus saying, "You are my friends"
If Jesus wasn't
on your list don't feel bad. I didn't think to put him on
my list when I did this exercise either - almost no one does!
You can learn to appreciate that Jesus thinks particularly of
you as his friend and he does the same for me.
Ph.D. is the Executive Director of the New Hope Crisis Counseling
Center at the Crystal Cathedral and a Clinical Psychologist and
Spiritual Director with ChristianSoulCare.com. Kristi Gaultiere,
Psy.D is a Marriage and Family Therapist with ChristianSoulCare.com.
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