“How’s your prayer life?” he asked me. It probably would have felt better had he hit me upside the head. I was meeting with my spiritual director. I was telling him about the many activities and distractions that had comprised my summer.
I was taken aback, not because the question was particularly unusual for a spiritual director, but because I was supposed to be the expert on prayer. I have written numerous articles in various publications on prayer. In fact, I have written a book with my sister on prayer and spiritual practice (see The Spacious Heart). How dare he challenge me?
I was also brought up short because I knew that my spiritual practices had taken a back seat. I was not living up to the image I was trying to project to the public. My public persona was stripped away with that question. I was standing naked in front of my spiritual director trying desperately to find some fig leaves to cover myself up. There were none to be found. I wonder if my face was red with embarrassment.
In answer to his question, I tried to outline the many spiritual practices I performed daily, knowing in my heart that I was trying frantically to cover my nakedness. I don’t think he was impressed. He admonished me to try to find more time in my daily routine for prayer.
I have discovered over the years that moments like the one I described above are the most teachable moments. When we come up short of our own expectations of ourselves, we are forced, often with much embarrassment and shame, to examine who we are and what we do.
The interchange with my spiritual director also shows how important it is to be accountable to other human beings in living out our faith. Our culture is so individualistic that we assume that we can do it all on our own. Indeed self-examination is very important and necessary. But other people can see through the facades we put up much better and more objectively than we are able to do on our own. We need other people to keep us honest.
So, how is your prayer life?