Each month I explore at least one spiritual discipline on my blog. This month, I explore the discipline of “spiritual friendship.” (I included some links at the bottom of this post to help you learn more about spiritual disciplines.)

Defining “Spiritual Friendship”

Sacred Companions by David G. Benner (Twitter: @drdavidgbenner) is, in my opinion, the best resource for understanding what is meant by the term “spiritual friendship.” Benner uses two phrases that are helpful in our discussion on “spiritual friendship”: soul friendship and spiritual friendship. From Sacred Companions (p15-16):

A soul friendship is… a relationship to which I bring my whole self, especially my inner self. And the care that I offer for the other person in a soul friendship is a care for his or her whole self, especially the inner self. Soul friends seek to safeguard each other’s uniqueness and nurture the growth of each other’s inner self….

Spiritual friends nurture the development of each other’s souls. Their love for each other translates into a desire ethat the other settle for nothing less than becoming all that he or she was intended to be…

Spiritual friends are soul friends…. Soul friends become spiritual friends when they seek to help each other attend and respond to God.

Here is my own working (and wordy) definition of spiritual friendship for the purposes of this discussion: “Spiritual friends are disciples of Jesus Christ who share their spiritual journey with one another, seek to encounter Christ together, listen to the Spirit together, pray to Father together, and celebrate one another’s spiritual growth together.”

Spiritual Friendship Is Essential

[Photo by vassiliki via stock.xchng]

[Photo by vassiliki via stock.xchng]

The importance of spiritual friendship cannot be overstated. Benner unashamedly says: “If you are making significant progress on the transformational journey of Christian spirituality, you have one or more friendships that support that journey. If you do not, you are not. It is that simple” (p16). In other words, it is impossible to grow in your faith if you do not have a spiritual friend sharing your journey.

Later in Sacred Companions, Benner offers several reasons why spiritual friends are essential to spiritual growth.

Some spiritual friends offer us help in knowing ourselves, while others offer help in knowing God. The best offer us both. This is a central feature of the gift of a true spiritual friend.

Note that I said that deep knowing of self and God requires deep knowing of and by others. Intimate relationships with others prepare us for intimacy with God. It is hard for me to imagine how someone could experience an intimate personal relationship with God and be unable to experience such a relationship with others. (p41)

As you know, I advocate a whole-person understanding of Christian spirituality, and a big part of that understanding is the role that spiritual community (friendships) play in spiritual formation.

Do You Have a Spiritual Friend?

This is a tall order for sure: that growth is heavily dependent upon spiritual friendships. The good news is that you probably already have potential spiritual friendships already. All you have to do is intentionally cultivate a spiritual friendship together. Benner again:

The potential for spiritual friendship lies undetected all around us–not just in our churches but also in our homes, workplaces and communities. Tragically, those who seek such friendships often fail to see the possibilities that already exist in their lives. (p16)

Who do you share your journey with? Do you have a spiritual friend?

Spiritual Discipline Resources

Here are a couple of links from my blog related to spiritual disciplines:

Join the Conversation

  • Do you have a spiritual friend? If not, what will you do this week to develop a spiritual friendship?

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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4 Responses to Spiritual Friendship

  1. Ken says:

    To be transparent, this is one of the more painful spiritual areas of my life. I currently do not have this type of relationship with anyone. The transient nature of our life and at times, the security level of what we are involved in keeps us from entering into these relationships with just anyone. I do miss this and long for the day that once again I have this type of relationship with one closer than a brother.

    • Adam Feldman says:

      Thank you for your transparency, Ken. One thing that was “eye opening” for me when I read “Sacred Companions” is how Benner affirms that spouses and siblings are often the most overlooked opportunities for “spiritual friendship” in our lives. Also, perhaps there is such a friendship that you could cultivate over Skype? Blessings.

  2. Eric says:

    Hey Adam, this is the first time I’ve read your blog! (sorry) Well done sir.

    In the past year or so, my schedule and responsibilities have changed somewhat. This has made it difficult for me to stay connected to a community group within our church body on a regular basis. In part due to your encouragement, I recognized this as a hindrance to my spiritual development and I have made it priority to invest in a close spiritual friendship. He and I have both greatly benefited from this. I couldn’t agree more with your blog. Thanks.

    • Adam Feldman says:

      Eric, so glad to hear how spiritual friendship has impacted your spiritual journey! It certainly does take a measure of effort. Then again, so do some of the most important things in life!

      (Oh, and, welcome to my blog!)

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