I always thought the phrase, “know thyself” was such a weird thing to say. As a teenager, I would often hear it spoken of at church and wondered why self-knowledge was so important to a person of faith. Isn’t that a selfish way to think, always reflecting on yourself? Well, to answer that question, we have to distinguish between self reflection, and self directedness. Self directedness essentially means directing everything back to ourselves and supposing the world revolves around us; while self reflection simply means understanding better what makes us tick: our passions, our dispositions, our inner thoughts, etc. By no means is it selfish.
Whether we realize it or not, self reflection can also be a means of communicating with God. Incidentally, around the same time, I was struggling with these thoughts, I was also struggling to understand prayer and even how to pray. If only I knew the two went together! There are many different ways to pray, but I have found the following steps to be very helpful in growing our relationship with God:
- Let it all out – For those of us who have journals, please keep writing! For those without, please get one! Being able to freely express our emotions and process what’s going on interiorly is vital. Having the freedom to write down anything and everything (especially the vulnerable stuff!) that prompts our emotions or feelings will make us feel more in touch with ourselves, and allow us to communicate with greater clarity.
- Bring it to God – Once light has been shed on how we are truly feeling or thinking about something, do not leave it there. Like swampy water, unless we labor to bring our deepest feelings and dispositions to God, they will only sit within us and rot. And that holds true for anything we withhold in prayer, the good and the bad. God delights in hearing everything about us, and throughout our journey with Him, He will speak His words of truth and life to the deepest parts of our souls. We should never fear bringing anything to our Father in heaven, for He never condemns and can only speak life into our lives.
- Share with Others – God should always be the first person we bring anything to, but periodically it may be helpful to also confide in a trusted parent, mentor, or pastor. God speaks in many ways, and He oftentimes uses the wider community of our other relationships to guide us. Contacting a spiritual director would be a wise idea here, especially if we are encountering something important or sensitive in our prayer. Setting up monthly meetings, or contacting a director during crucial discernment periods, like during deciding between vocations or careers, is a good idea.
- Experience New Life! – After I began praying to God in this way, within a short matter of time my friends started taking notice. Joy, peace, and charity are all fruits of a healthy prayer life, and will always be present when communication lines are functioning at full capacity with the God of the universe. God is always with us, and having deep, heartfelt knowledge of that through honest prayer will bring us new life we never imagined possible.