*Ding!* I have a text from my friend Cathy. "Are you free to talk and pray together this week?"
In the middle of a week of work, errands, and family, this text is an invitation to make space for something important: pursuing God together within friendship with a fellow spiritual journeyer.
Cathy and I have a long-lasting friendship built primarily on our mutual pursuit of God. We have journeyed together through life transitions and difficult seasons. Each time we get together, we share about how we're experiencing God, and about what's getting in the way of our spiritual growth. We listen without judgement, pray and listen together, and offer encouragement to each other. We are mutually committed to each other's spiritual growth.
Our spiritual journey is meant to be traveled with others. We are created to pursue God in the company of other people.
In relationships with other people, we receive and give support, encouragement, challenge. Of course we can encounter God and hear him alone, apart from other people. Yet there is an undeniable way we are able to grow spiritually in community. We all have flat sides and blind spots in our spiritual growth. Community with others often helps hear God and discern his will for our lives.
Friendships built on the common purpose of knowing and loving God
When I need prayer, encouragement, or wisdom, I turn to Cathy. She and I have a simple rhythm - we chat about once every two weeks. We briefly catch up on the essential stuff of our lives, we share what God is doing and how he is speaking, and we pray. Our prayer time includes a few moments of silent listening; we listen for any words or impressions God wants to give. Then we pray in that direction.
Through conversation, listening, and praying together, friends can help each other discern God’s activity, and encourage each other in that.
When we gather with friends with the purpose of pursuing God, we create the kind of sacred space that Jesus talks about in Matthew 18:20: “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” It is a space for the Spirit of God to dwell among his people and bring forth more of his Kingdom reality in our lives.
Not every friendship can be like the one I have with Cathy. But I believe friendship built on pursuing God together is a gift worth working toward. Friendship is often built on how much you enjoy and like a person. But what if we could have friendships built on the common purpose of knowing and loving God?
Here is a simple way to develop this spiritual practice in your life.
How to develop friendships that help your spiritual growth:
1. Seek out another person who shares your desire to pursue God.
This may be challenging or easy for you, depending on how connected you are to others who share your desire to grow spiritually. Hopefully you are involved in a faith community, and can find someone there. If not, ask God to help you seek out a person.
2. Together with your friend, make a commitment to each other.
Share with each other what each of you is seeking and hoping for in your friendship. Discuss how you want to partner together in pursuing God and spiritual growth. Make a commitment to be open and honest with each other. This is not a common kind of conversation, and may feel clunky and awkward. That's fine. If you want a friendship that is ultimately aimed at mutual spiritual growth, a clear commitment to each other is an important step.
3. Decide on a rhythm of meeting together.
This relationship is built on being intentional and consistent. You will need to decide how often to meet together, depending on your schedules. For example, you might choose to meet weekly for about an hour.
4. Begin journeying together.
As with anything new, your friendship may feel a bit awkward at first. It may take a while to develop trust, comfortability and depth with another person. But I believe the benefits are worth it!
How you use your time together to help each other's spiritual growth:
If you need to get really practical, here is a loose outline for what to do and discuss. Feel free to alter it to best fit you.
- Share about how you’ve been experiencing God’s presence recently. How have you experienced connection or disconnection with God?
- Share about what is bothering you, what is getting in the way of your spiritual growth, the needs of your soul, or how you have been making space for God lately.
- As you each share, pay attention to the Spirit’s voice on behalf of your friend. If you sense the Spirit saying something or stirring your spirit in some way, consider sharing that with the other person.
- In prayer, listen for what God wants to say to the other person. Allow your prayer for each other be shaped by what God is saying and doing.
- Consider how you each will intentionally and practically respond to God in the coming week. If there is a way you need your friend to help or keep you accountable, ask for that.
In friendships, you are trusting that God is really the one bringing transformation. It is not your role or responsibility to change another person, but to act as partners pursuing God and walking the spiritual journey together.
Print my free PDF guide to spiritual companionship. For more guides and tools, check out my library of resources.
Questions: Do you have friends that help your spiritual growth? When you are in need of spiritual encouragement or support, who do you turn to? How do you want to make more space for this in your life? Please share in the comments.