There is a wise saying by Fr. Hilary Ottensmeyer that goes: “Until you are convinced that prayer is the best use of your time, you will not find time for prayer.” A few years ago, I found myself in a place that was painfully true of Fr. Ottensmeyer’s warning. I was stressed on several fronts—work life, family life, social life, and dealing with a complicated set of health issues. I was so busy and distracted that my prayer life had completely dried up.
I sought the advice of my spiritual director. Surprisingly, he didn’t give me a book or an article on prayer. He didn’t recommend a set of prayer techniques. Instead, he suggested I attend a three-day intensive workshop in journaling designed by depth psychologist Ira Progoff. What my spiritual director noticed was that not only had I lost contact with God—I had lost contact with myself. I was a stranger to myself. I didn’t know who I was before God. In-depth journaling might help.
Remarkably, Dr. Progoff’s workshop enabled me to welcome the inner stranger—to get back in touch with myself so that I had a basis for reconnecting with God. I found through journaling that I was really in a place of blocking out God. I didn’t want his perspective on me and my life because I was afraid of what he would tell me.
I found that through honestly examining who I was—and who God was—I was able to come to a place of sincere and profound repentance. As a result, I found a joy and a freedom returning to my life. I gained perspective and clarity. This clarity threw a light on the various stresses in my life and enabled me to simplify. But more fundamentally, I was able to return to God wholeheartedly. I had the motivation and the freedom to establish a prayer life that has sustained me through even more difficult times than those during which I attended Dr. Progoff’s workshop.
Join the Conversation:
How well do you know yourself these days?
Are you close to yourself before God—or do you need to welcome home the inner stranger?
Don Simpson is a certified spiritual director in Colorado Springs and is senior editor at NavPress. He is coauthor with Dallas Willard of Revolution of Character (NavPress, 2005). He also participated in launching Discipleship Journal and The Small Group Letter, and was cofounder of Helmers & Howard, Publishers.