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After Morning Prayers PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, November 30 2006 19:00
After taking part in morning prayers with a group of friends last Saturday, I talked with one of them over coffee and cake. Though I do not know this man -  - a retired banker and current philanthropist -  - very well, I found conversation with him remarkably uplifting. In fact, later in the day and on succeeding days, the more I reflected on our exchange, the more I considered it an occasion of grace.

Both of us had been moved by what the speaker at the prayer session had said about peace. In her five-minute commentary on scripture, she had filled us with reflections about spirituality that carried over into the gathering that followed.

First, we talked about our agenda for that Saturday. His would feature a visit by one of his daughters with her 15-year-old son. Spending time with them, especially the grandson whom he does not see very often, was an event that he was eagerly looking forward to. He noted that boys at that age change so much so quickly that it is hard to keep up with their growth.

My friend, whom I will call Jack, went on to tell me how he feels blessed in living into his 70s. He regards it as a gift from God that he has seen the third generation after him and has the prospect of seeing a fourth, since one of his granddaughters is married and in her middle 20s. Jack feels grateful for the good health he enjoys and the opportunities for doing good brought to him in his later decades.

His wife has had some serious physical problems and walks with difficulty. But she has adapted cheerfully to her leg brace, a device that, along with a helping arm from her husband, allows her to get places where she wants to go. Jack agreed with my remarks about her resiliency, a characteristic that he and I also regard as a gift.

Jack also shared with me the benefit he is drawing from a course at his church that focuses on Abraham in the book of Genesis. This study is stirring Jack spiritually and he repeated to me “be a blessing,” the phrase spoken by Abraham from which he is deriving spiritual relish.

In my part of the conversation, I shared with Jack my own plans for that Saturday. These included a meeting of members of my church concerned about a crisis. Later in the day I would attend a cocktail party given by a 90-year-old friend in honor of his late wife. Finally, I would be celebrating the birthdays of two of my brothers and be introduced to the fiancé of a niece. All of these events of that day would offer material for reflection and prayer.

As I left the gathering my soul felt buoyed up by the heartfelt exchange with Jack, and I reflected on the traditional role of spiritual conversation in the life of seekers. In my novitiate training long ago, I learned the value of talking with other people about the spiritual life. And this value came home to me often, especially when I talked with close friends who shared my ideals.

I had also learned the value of keeping silence but there was much time for that. When opportunities came for conversation, then I experienced the spiritual benefits from learning how others were faring in living toward God.

The masters of the spiritual life have also taught that idle and superficial conversation can sometimes harm the soul. Living in 21st-century America can make this a hard saying because our culture elevates chatter into a way of life. Like almost everybody else, I enjoy bantering with friends and exchanging clever remarks. However, I also find that such chatter, if carried on too long, can eat away at my soul.

Just the day before Jack and I talked, I had been in a conversation with a group of colleagues, a discussion that left me feeling low. By contrast with the way Jack talked, these other men never said anything of substance. The result for me was a spiritual malaise that acted as a true downer. It has made me appreciate even more my spiritual conversation with Jack.

Richard Griffin