How to Develop a Prayer Rule: Spiritual Guidance

“Lord, teach us to pray as John taught his disciples.” Luke 11:1

Seeking oneness with God was not left to chance by early Christians. Catechist and baptized believers sought spiritual guidance from clergy, monastics, and wise elders in their communities. Bishops, priest, and deacons were ordained through the succession from the Apostles and Christ. Monks and Nuns renounced worldly pursuits to devote themselves to prayer. Wise elders had lived through much and had tried and true lessons to share with those who asked. A spiritual father or mother knew the believer, the situations they faced, and based on experience in Christian Living, could offer advice to help them grow closer to God.

Fr. James Purdie with my wife and I for our Orthodox Crowning (Marriage)

This Orthodox Christian tradition has been thrown on the scrap heap in our modern society, even among some Orthodox believers. We are very individualistic and like to have “my Bible” and “my Jesus.” On the day of Judgement, we all will have to give an account of ourselves. However, we are all parts of the Body of Christ and called to desire the best for each other (1 Corinthians 12:12-27). Having an experienced and trustworthy believer to help us in spiritual growth is highly advised. Parish priest who are with us during confession are usually called upon as spiritual fathers. If fortunate enough to have a connection with a monk or nun, ask for advice on a regular basis. Sometimes there is a wise elder, or someone who has a consistent prayer life and well versed in the wisdom of saints before us in the parish.

Mother Katherine Weston of Indianapolis

A spiritual father (or mother) is not a guru who must be approached before making any and every decision. Outside of being a part of a monastery with a common rule, that is control freakery borderline cult. However, this guide must be well rooted in the faith and a practitioner of prayer. The advice given should be based on the scriptures, fathers, and mind of the Church and applied to the situations we share with them. Avoid self-promoters and those with a reputation for causing disputes in the parish. A discrete and humble man (or woman) of few words and lives the faith can be very helpful on the spiritual journey. Pray to God and speak with your priest in choosing a worthy guide.

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