Peacock, B., Soul Care in African American Practice
By: Lisa Bozarth Ozaeta
The African American community has a deep spiritual tradition. Terms like spiritual direction might not be familiar, but there is a long history of soul care. In this book, Peacock traces the practices of prayer and soul care as they have been exhibited by African American spiritual heroes. The book explores spiritual practices of worship, lectio divina, visio divina, prayer, meditation, rest, and spiritual direction. The book displays an evangelical theology.
As Thomas Merton said, many Christians have “practically no idea of the immense love of God for them, and the power of that Love to do them good, to bring them happiness.”
Many of us do not fully experience the joy of life, simply because we do not know the immense love that God has for us (as stated simply in John 3:16).
One of the great markers of spiritual maturity is growing in awareness of the depth of God’s love. (Location 80)
The disciplines of the Christian faith are conduits of spiritual development that catapult men and women of God to new places in their faith journey. (Location 92)
In this book we will focus on three disciplines: prayer, spiritual direction, and soul care. (Location 95)
Spiritual direction is the practice of discerning the activity of God in the life of another. The term spiritual director is applied to the person who seeks God’s directives for the life of another while attentively nurturing and caring for that individual’s very soul. That is soul care.
The call of the spiritual director is to be a conduit of God who assists directees in recognizing the activity of God’s holy presence.
The spiritual director must be mindful that the ultimate director is the Holy Spirit; God sees fit to use human directors in connecting his omnipresence to their directees.
Without a doubt, a key element undergirding spiritual direction and soul care is prayer. (Location 100)
This book highlights how prayer, spiritual direction, and soul care provide resurrection power in the lives of people of African American descent. (Location 106)
For the sake of clarity, I will use the two words together as one discipline and will extract definitions where necessary. (Location 112)
Joy Unspeakable, Barbara Holmes, president of United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, makes this clear when she identifies the spiritual leadership of several figures of African descent—Tertullian, Augustine, Cyprian, and others—who were “instrumental in the expansion and theological grounding of the early church.” (Location 116)
Thus we see spiritual leaders of the Christian faith with African roots. (Location 122)
I am excited to share with you ten men and women of God who exemplify prayer, spiritual direction, and soul care in the faith community. (Location 126)
Visio divina is an ancient spiritual discipline that calls us to see spiritually beyond the actual photo, illustration, or picture. Our mental and spiritual reflections cause us to sink deep into the revelations that can be found within the image. Such spiritual insight is revealed only by the person of the Holy Spirit. The Latin meaning of visio divina is “divine seeing, or sacred seeing.” (Location 141)
We will use two images of Jesus as the Good Shepherd as our subjects of reflection in this book. (Location 149)
INTRODUCTION African American Spirituality
What does God require from those whose spirituality involves developing relationships in the midst of adversity? Regardless of any crisis, Yahweh, the God of all creation, requires consistent communion that allows people to be immersed in him. He desires a relationship with his people that is authentic and personal. (Location 177)
These reflections will be based on the lives and thoughts of the following African American spiritual leaders:
Dr. Frederick Douglass
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Mrs. Rosa Parks Dr.
Dr. Renita Weems
Dr. Harold Carter
Dr. Jessica Ingram
Mrs. Coretta Scott King
Dr. James Washington
Dr. Howard Thurman
Even though prayer is a prominent discipline within the African American community, threads of the practice of spiritual direction and soul care are interwoven and dispersed within our faith community. (Location 198)
There is a minimum amount of material written about spiritual direction in the African American tradition. Therefore, it is necessary to engage in the history of persons in the African American community while seeking to unveil lives that represent spiritual direction and attentiveness to the soul. (Location 199)
AFRICAN AMERICAN SPIRITUAL FOUNDATIONS (Location 202)
Though patriarchal spiritual giants such as early church fathers Tertullian and Augustine are known for their contemplative contributions, mainstream religious history has not prominently emphasized their origin and their African heritage. (Location 210)
Elizabeth Johnson, identify the beginning of slavery around 1619.
During this time slaves were transported from Africa to the North American colonies.
Over nearly four centuries, approximately ten million Africans were sent to America.6
Even though millions of lives were lost during the journey, millions survived.
Stripped from African soil, slaves pondered the past, not knowing what to expect in the future. (Location 215)
Thousands of souls traveled thousands of miles from their homes. (Location 223)
While in chains, many slaves expressed great faith in God, the only one who could deliver them from such inhumane circumstances. (Location 228)
Moans and groans penetrated the atmosphere as a result of pain, sickness, sorrow, and loss. (Location 230)
Care, love, and prayerful conversation were the best prescription for the oppressed. (Location 234)
St. John of the Cross shed insight on the slaves’ plight. During such a time of darkness, the soul journeys to God in what he called pure faith:
For pure faith is the means whereby it is united with God. Few there are who walk along this road, because it is so narrow, dark, and terrible that, in obscurities and trials, the night of sense cannot be compared to it. . . . But God also, by means of this dark and dry night of contemplation, supernaturally instructs in his divine wisdom the soul that is empty and unhindered (which is the requirement for his divine inpouring). (Location 254)
Truly, persons of African descent can say, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). (Location 276)
LBO Note: Questionable theology here. I don’t think we have to say that slavery worked to the good of anyone. It was/is evil.
African Americans have a rich heritage that evolved from numerous references based on identification and diversified roots. But more important than a name that references a culture is the character of a people who know their past, present, and future identity in Christ. (Location 288)
Africa was one of the earliest locales of the Christian church and one of its most important intellectual centers.” (Location 293)
The slaves believed that God would eventually come to their rescue, that he would not forget them. Kellemen and Edwards wrote, “They viewed him as the Father of the fatherless, as the God who collects their tears in his bottle of remembrance.” (Location 322)
THE AFRICAN AMERICAN CHURCH
Worship, prayer, and spiritual direction. (Location 326)
Slaves were so committed to their spirituality that they were willing to die for their convictions. (Location 330)
Former slave Sarah Rhodes spoke of clandestine gatherings, aptly named “hush harbor meetings” in this way:
“We used to steal off to de woods and have church, like de Spirit moved us—sing and pray to our own liking and soul satisfaction—and we sure did have good meetings, honey—baptize in de river like God said. We had dem spirit-filled meetings on de bank of de river, and God met us there.”18 (Location 334)
“In our community today we still sing stories that are laced with spiritual direction metaphors. For example, Jesus is depicted as a companion or guide in the song ‘I Want Jesus to Walk with Me,’ which includes the words, ‘I want Jesus to walk with me; all along my pilgrim journey, Lord, I want Jesus to walk with me.”20
Walking with Jesus, the chief spiritual director, is an aspect of spiritual direction embraced by those who practice the discipline. (Location 347)
First, slave narratives, spirituals, and spiritual direction have a holistic approach with a common denominator: the care of the souls of individuals.
Second, the songs and narratives of faith and hope altered the outlook of persons in the African American tradition. (Location 355)
In a relationship between a spiritual director and directee, the director desires that the directee experience encouragement.
Third, and most important, is the centrality of the theme of God.
Whether through a spiritual song that is sung in a church among slaves or at a spiritual direction appointment in an extravagant church office, God is the primary focus of the transformative relationship. (Location 357)
Worship and discernment.
While songs, prayer, and spiritual direction were engrained in the African American church, there was also a need for discernment. (Location 364)
African Americans who depended solely on the spirituality of their slave masters were apt to be deceived and confused. (Location 367)
It was evident there was more to God than what was demonstrated in the lives of slave masters, who often used the Bible for personal benefit. (Location 369)
Masters sought to enslave the Africana people, even to the extent of publishing a slave Bible designed to keep them in spiritual bondage. (Location 376)
Yet the presence of the Spirit of God in the lives of slaves gave them discernment to make distinctions between what God was saying and such manipulative preaching. (Location 384)
In the book Seeking God Together, Alice Fryling noted that sin originates in half-truths. (Location 387)
The cure for abolishing self-deception is to consistently invite the presence of the Holy Spirit into one’s life. (Location 391)
God desires that all know one’s true self. I ask myself, Is one of the cures for slavery, oppression, and segregation that people look deeper into their soul and, with a spirit of repentance, invite and accept the activity of God’s Spirit in their lives? (Location 393)
God, in his infinite way, used oppression to form spiritual character, strength, and integrity. (Location 398)
The oppression and injustices our ancestors experienced was not for nothing. Yes, it was painful. Yes, it was unjust. Yes, it was racially motivated. (Location 404)
But God was still there. (Location 405)
Chapter 1: DR. FREDERICK DOUGLASS Spiritual Direction and Lectio Divina
Dr. Frederick Douglass was an abolitionist, author, orator, statesman, reformer, and leader in numerous communities. (Location 430)
he learned to read with the assistance of his slave master’s wife. (Location 435)
In his book on Douglass, William S. McFeely wrote, “Soon he could ‘read’ memorized passages on familiar pages.” (Location 436)
Mrs. Auld took the time to read the Bible to him, and he meditated on and memorized it. (Location 438)
The way they read the Bible together resembles the Latin reading process called lectio divina, a slow, thoughtful reading of the text with God’s presence in mind. (Location 439)
One example from Scripture was the twice daily repetition of the Shema, recorded in Deuteronomy 6:4: “Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one.” Such repetition is a form of lectio, as the Shema requires one to be attentive to the voice of God while listening. (Location 440)
For him reading was not merely glancing over a text but meditating on what he heard, which eventually equipped him to impact millions. (Location 447)
Observing the impact her spiritual mentor had on her life, Douglass sought out a spiritual mentor for himself. As he observed her journey, he came to believe that if mentoring worked for her, it would also work for him. He (Location 455)
God blessed Douglass with people who were attentive to his soul. And (Location 463)
Learning to read the Bible is soul care at its finest. The Spirit nourishes the soul when we draw close to him, and God uses people to share and impart direction to us along the way. (Location 464)
Douglass’s life. God uses whoever and whatever is necessary to fulfill his purpose and plan for each individual. His destiny for us is not without obstacles; but when destiny calls, God assures that he will provide what is needed to complete the task that is set. No demonic force—not even slavery—can stop God from doing his work in the souls of his chosen ones. (Location 472)
Lectio divina (Location 478)
Silencio: Be still. Quiet yourself.
Take some deep breaths as you inhale and exhale. It will help to sit back in your chair, put your hands on your lap, and gently close your eyes. Honor God’s presence in your sacred space. (Location 485)
Lectio: Reading the Word of God is the second step in lectio divina. As you prayerfully read the passage, revere God’s holy Scriptures.
Slow down and listen in silence as you anticipate experiencing the awesomeness of his holy voice. Pray that God would speak to you in a way different from any reading encounter you’ve had in the past. (Location 487)
Meditatio: Meditation is the third step. Meditating on God’s Word is similar to chewing on a passage.
Through meditation, allow God’s Word to be fully digested into your very being. Imagine a cow chewing its cud. While chewing, the cow turns the food over and over in its mouth. In meditation we turn God’s Word over and over in our mind. Your desire is that God’s Word will touch you at a depth you have not experienced before. 4.
Oratio: The prayer phase is the fourth step in lectio divina. Oh how precious is this sacred time! Oratio calls you to go even deeper in your discipline of sacred reading.
During a loving, intimate conversation with your Creator, allow the Word of God to transform you from the inside out. Accept his warm and precious embrace during this time. 5.
Contemplatio: Contemplation is the final step of your sacred reading. During this time, God is calling you to rest in his holy presence.
Rest as you solely focus on his Word. Receive his divine Spirit of holiness during this process of transformation. Embrace the Word of his unconditional love. Let go of preconceptions. Let go of your own words, and embrace his Word. Settle down and enjoy just being with him.
Rest. Selah. (Location 490)
Psalm 46:10 and read it aloud slowly twice. (Location 503)
Focus on a phrase in the passage that speaks to you. (Location 503)
Finish the following statements: This reading touches my life _____. I hear _____. I see _____. I sense _____. Other reflection(s): _____. (Location 509)
Answer the following: I sense God wants me to _____. I sense God calling me to _____. Other reflection(s): _____. (Location 515)
Chapter 2: DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. Spiritual Direction and Prayer
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a spiritual and political leader noted for his participation in the civil rights movement during the 1960s. (Location 546)
To receive the prophetic directives necessary for a movement of justice and liberty, prayer was a necessary discipline. (Location 547)
Prayer is a spiritual discipline that causes our ear to be attentive to the voice of our almighty, all-knowing, and all-powerful God as he speaks his words of wisdom and direction. (Location 548)
Through the practice of prayer, God imparted revelation and knowledge into the mind of Dr. King, which empowered him to move forward by faith in his Lord. (Location 551)
The nonviolent protests Dr. King led were instrumental in transforming America. God used him and the movement to change the face of racial interactions in America. (Location 552)
Clayborne Carson described Dr. King’s philosophy as a synthesis of the teachings of Jesus Christ and Gandhi. (Location 558)
Carson wrote, “One of the main tenets of this philosophy was the conviction that nonviolent resistance was one of the most potent weapons available to oppressed people in their quest for social justice.”2 (Location 564)
Dr. King’s laborious work has been instrumental in shaping the unique theological and contextual definition of prayer and spiritual direction for persons of African descent. (Location 567)
Because Dr. King realized his kingdom assignment was beyond him, he prayerfully sought God for direction. (Location 572)
In carrying out his mandate, it is evident that, in addition to being a man of prayer, Dr. King was a contemplative. (Location 576)
Dr. King’s “life was characterized by a powerful integration of prayer and contemplation with a profound commitment to decisive and loving action in the world.”3 (Location 578)
Contemplative action is action that emerges from our real encounters with God. It is doing what God calls us to do when he calls us to do it—no matter how afraid we are or how ill-equipped we feel. (Location 582)
Undertaking the mission for freedom and civil rights required a contemplative and reflective life immersed in the mind of God. (Location 589)
Only God could give Dr. King the necessary spiritual directives to lead and minister to an oppressed people. (Location 590)
Barton wrote, “Were it not for his full engagement in the fight for justice and his grounded-ness in the life of prayer, he might never have had the kind of encounter with God that transformed him in the deepest level of his being.” (Location 593)
It would have been impossible for Dr. King to fulfill the mandate on his life without the assurance of God’s unconditional love for himself and all humanity.
The Greek term for this kind of love is agapē, the kind of love that “aims to preserve and create community.” (Location 597)
Dr. King allowed the Spirit to form in him amid racial discord. (Location 601)
For my husband, Martin Luther King, Jr., prayer was a daily source of courage and strength that gave him the ability to carry on in even the darkest hours of our struggle. . (Location 604)
With his head in his hands, Martin bowed over the kitchen table and prayed aloud to God: “Lord, I am taking a stand for what I believe is right. The people are looking to me for leadership, and if I stand before them without strength and courage, they will falter. I am at the end of my powers. I have nothing left. I have come to the point where I can’t face it alone.”7 (Location 605)
Dr. King’s lowest point, she heard her spiritual companion turn to the ultimate spiritual director, the Holy Spirit. She listened attentively to her husband during that trying time. Such listening is one of the characteristics of spiritual direction and soul care. (Location 611)
Mrs. King went on to say that he later told her, “At that moment, I experienced the presence of the Divine as I had never experienced Him before. It seemed as though I could hear a voice saying: ‘Stand up for righteousness; stand up for truth; and God will be at our side forever.’” (Location 613)
I believe Dr. King’s table prayer was a critical turning point for the struggle for African American freedom, because from that point forward, we had a leader who was divinely inspired and would not be turned back by multiple threats or numerous forms of violence. (Location 619)
On April 3, 1968, the day before his assassination, addressing a crowd of two thousand people at the Masonic Temple in Memphis, Tennessee, Dr. King spoke prophetically: (Location 622)
We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the Promised Land. And I’m so happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.9 (Location 624)
Deep within his heart, Dr. King knew that fulfilling the will of God was his ultimate assignment. Such a desire is embedded in the spirit of a spiritual director. (Location 633)
He desired to see the complete manifestation of the activity of God in the lives of those he was called to serve. (Location 635)
When describing Dr. King, Colaiaco uses words such as led, ascent, moving, direct, lead, prayed, directives, journey, and power. This list of words points directly to the attributes of prayer and spiritual direction embodied in Dr. King. (Location 647)
When speaking of their prayerful journey, Mrs. King said, Prayer was a wellspring of strength and inspiration during the Civil Rights Movement. (Location 654)
contemplative heart for all of God’s people. Regardless of the difficulties encountered on his complex journey, Dr. King took the time to hear from his God. He was not too busy to fulfill the monumental mandate on his life. (Location 659)
Dr. King was purposeful in developing his relationship with God and others. Such relationship tending is a focus in spiritual direction and caring for the soul. (Location 662)
was inspired by Could You Not Tarry One Hour? by Larry Lea.12 (Location 669)
also learned about the ACTS prayer. I was so excited and I found myself on fire about prayer. (Location 670)
ACTS is an acronym representing the words adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication. (Location 671)
Adoration. “Praise be to God” (Psalm 68:35). (Location 674)
Confession. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). (Location 678)
Thanksgiving. Always give God glory. Always give him thanks. “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). “Glorify him with thanksgiving” (Psalm 69:30). (Location 682)
Supplication. God is the supplier of everything you need. He is your ultimate source and provider. Therefore “present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). (Location 686)
If you are seeking to pray for an hour, divide the time into approximately fifteen minutes for each letter of the ACTS acronym. (Location 690)
As you pray, be mindful not to be programmatic. Let this sacred time flow in the Spirit of God. (Location 692)
Defining prayer and putting parameters around it can be challenging. There is never one set paradigm. (Location 694)
Wheel of Prayer
Another helpful tool is the wheel of prayer from The Hour That Changes the World by Dick Eastman.13 This book is a great resource for those who want to go deeper in prayer. (Location 697)
I encourage you to pray five minutes for each of the twelve areas on the wheel. Enjoy the prayer journey! (Location 699)
SPIRITUAL DIRECTION AND PRAYER IN SCRIPTURE (Location 702)
Walter Hilton, a fourteenth-century Augustinian friar, defined prayer as “nothing else but an ascending or getting up of the desire of the heart into God by withdrawing from earthly thoughts.”14 (Location 703)
Prayer necessitates that we earnestly seek to serve God, pull away from the vicissitudes of life, and carve out intentional times to commune with the lover of our soul. (Location 708)
While the practice of the discipline of prayer can occur in solitude, the practice of spiritual direction must have the attentive participation of another person, particularly a trained spiritual director. Although prayer and spiritual direction are similar in a spiritual sense, they are distinct and unique disciplines. (Location 709)
Prayer coupled with spiritual direction in cooperation with the Holy Spirit leads us closer to God. (Location 716)
Talking with God. Gracious God, I thank you for your sovereignty. There is nowhere I can turn and you are not there. (Location 736)
Hearing from God. My dear child, did I not say I will never leave you or forsake you? I am here to calm your fears. I am always with you. (Location 740)
Chapter 3: MRS. ROSA PARKS Meditation and Contemplation
In I Dream a World, Brian Lanker highlighted several prominent African American figures, including Rosa Parks, a seamstress who had unusual spiritual determination. (Location 755)
Her defiance spoke for a whole people.”1 This one action—or, one might say, lack of action—was a game changer in the trajectory of history. Mrs. Parks’s conscious decision upset a system that had tried to box her—and people of color—in. (Location 758)
This meditation and contemplation came with intention. I call it consecrated intentionality. (Location 762)
Meditation is a discipline in which a person’s focus is turned inward. (Location 763)
As Mrs. Parks sat on the Alabama bus, her mind was definitely fixed. She had set her mind “like flint” (Isaiah 50:7). She sat with a tenacity and strength that can only come from God Almighty. She sat and she contemplated. (Location 764)
Regardless of how long she ruminated on her decision to resist, it was done with careful and precise thought. (Location 770)
Her transformative act of justice was instituted without words. (Location 771)
While making a decision that spoke volumes to the world, I would imagine that Mrs. Parks reflected on the history and the strength of her ancestors. (Location 777)
In her autobiography, Rosa Parks: My Story, she discussed her spiritual journey. Speaking about the day she was arrested on the bus, she noted, “everybody was very quiet.”2 (Location 780)
Without a shadow of doubt, she had the best tour guide on what became a physically motionless bus. His name is Jesus! He was directing and guiding her on her pilgrimage of equality. (Location 784)
‘I’d like for [readers] to know that I had a very spiritual background and that I believe in church and my faith and that has helped to give me the strength and courage to live as I did.’” (Location 788)
It was this faith—her faith in God—that empowered her to stand confidently against the spirits of adversity, look the enemy of segregation in the eye, and declare before the world that “we shall not be moved.” It (Location 792)
In his book The Contemplative Pastor, Eugene Peterson posed a question: “How can I lead people into a quiet place beside the still waters if I am in perpetual motion? How can I persuade a person to live by faith and not by works if I have to juggle my schedule constantly to make everything fit into place?” (Location 809)
Although Peterson’s mission was carried out in a different time and space than that of Mrs. Parks, God used these prayerful, meditative, and contemplative leaders.
I believe that if the two were in conversation, they would talk about how the “quiet place” is the launching pad for effective ministry in leading God’s people. (Location 811)
Define contemplation and meditation different from the Christian tradition. So before I begin to define either, let me say
I am doing it from a christocentric and trinitarian theological stance. (Location 837)
I know it may be common today to be inclusive with other faiths, however, that is not my intent here. (Location 839)
One of my favorite verses in Scripture is Joshua 1:8, which reads: “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (Location 841)
The call remains the same from the Spirit of God: come aside and be with God to ponder and connect with him by any means necessary. Meditation and contemplation are excellent tools to use when doing this. (Location 855)
Contemplative spiritually draws us into a more focused being and knowing as we open ourselves up to the intimacy of God’s totality. (Location 860)
See your time of contemplation as a sacred solo space with an audience of One.
Respond to his call to be with you, to sup with you, and to dance with you in the Spirit as he serenades you.
Come aside and just be.
No agenda. Just rest.
Bathe in his holy presence.
Receive his holiness.
Embrace his unconditional love.
Saturate. Soak in silence.
Be. (Location 869)
Chapter 4: DR. DARRELL GRIFFIN Spiritual Direction and Soul Care
Spiritual direction is a gift to the body of Christ in which one is committed to sitting with another to help that person better identify and experience the activity of God in his or her life. (Location 900)
Directing the spirit of an individual is emphatically the work of the Holy Spirit and should not be entered into with an agenda in mind. (Location 903)
Dr. Darrell Griffin is the pastor at Oakdale Covenant Church in Chicago. In addition to being a senior pastor, he is a certified spiritual director and also has experienced the benefits of having a spiritual director. (Location 907)
Direction is serious business, and it must be entered into prayerfully. It influences people far beyond the director and directee. (Location 921)
He wrote, “I struggled to incorporate the African American religious experience and tradition into the context of spiritual direction, and I found, to my surprise and disappointment, that my congregation reacted to the ministry of spiritual direction with ambivalence and distrust.” (Location 958)
In this case, the congregants often viewed the introduction of a new concept as a threat. (Location 962)
He is intentional about helping people see the historicity of spiritual direction from an African American perspective. (Location 964)
In particular he shares information on the slave narrative and spirituals, and he identifies places of spiritual direction.3 He also incorporates the Enneagram into his leadership developmental process. (Location 965)
It is also important that ministers make appropriate changes to make sure their relationship with God remains strengthened when facing spiritual, emotional, social, or vocational challenges. (Location 989)
Spiritual care provider Dr. Scott Endress reminds us of the significance of a spiritual director in the complex life of a minister: (Location 991)
What I like most about spiritual direction is its ongoing call to live life at a deeper level, where the water currents are stronger and more life-giving. (Location 992)
Many clergy are finding themselves in both spiritual and professional crises today. (Location 994)
The word soul is familiar among African Americans, so there may be less of a barrier when referring to the discipline of spiritual direction as soul care. (Location 1005)
Therefore readings and teachings developed around the concept of “soul care,” as opposed to “spiritual direction,” may be more readily accepted in our faith communities. (Location 1010)
Dr. Griffin wrote, “If we are to practice spiritual direction, African Americans need spiritual direction that is grounded in African American tradition.”7
Incorporating the language of soul care would allow easier implementation of the spiritual language and therefore the practices of spiritual direction and soul care. (Location 1011)
The call of the director is to be sensitive to the Spirit of God, who guides the directee toward spiritual listening. (Location 1015)
Regardless of the language, the goal is to lead the directee to greater intimacy with our holy, loving God. (Location 1019)
Spiritual direction is defined by Tilden Edwards as “the meeting of two or more people whose desire is to prayerfully listen for the movements of the Holy Spirit in all areas of life (not just in their formal prayer life).” (Location 1037)
The ultimate purpose in spiritual direction is to draw one away from the hurried society in which we live and to draw closer to God. (Location 1043)
Chapter 5: DR. RENITA WEEMS Detachment and Attachment in Spiritual Direction
I reinforce numerous disciplines during sessions of spiritual direction and soul care, and the disciplines of detachment and attachment are key. (Location 1082)
This call is to detach from any care or concern that can easily distract you from the ideal1 relationship with him, to detach from the cares of the world and to attach to Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. (Location 1085)
When you detach from someone or something, a void or space opens, and it’s natural to seek to fill the space with someone or something else.
We need something to fill the void, to occupy the vacant space. (Location 1090)
Likewise is a detached life. It is open to whatever. It is positioned to be filled and possessed. Yes, it is good to detach, but detachment generates a need for an attachment.
In our situation, the intent is to attach more strongly to God, holy things (Location 1095)
Dr. Renita Weems, an Old Testament professor at Vanderbilt University Divinity School, lives out the discipline of detachment and attachment on her spiritual journey. (Location 1102)
In her book Listening for God, she shares insight about these disciplines.
She is transparent as she acknowledges a time in her life when God seemed to be absent. (Location 1104)
Too often, pastors, bishops, apostles, teachers, evangelists, and the like strive to do ministry while knowing their cup is half empty. (Location 1121)
Rest assured, my dear daughter, that I see to it that those who seek me arrive at the destination specifically intended for them. They arrive in my kairos time.” (Location 1138)
Dr. Weems’s daily activities sought to crowd out time with her God. (Location 1148)
She is candid about the spiritual chaos of a life inundated with activity. She knows about the drought that exists when the soul is neglected. (Location 1152)
Often our souls are thirsty, but we do not realize it or sense that we are in the midst of a spiritual crisis. There is a spiritual drought in the land, and it is parching our very souls. (Location 1156)
Because our lives are overextended, we must come to understand the need to detach from the cares of the world and to draw closer to the Lord our God. (Location 1158)
Too often people in the body of Christ have knowledge about God, but do they really know him? We are not fully and consistently operating in the powerful, victorious life that God has called us to and ordained us to experience. (Location 1179)
As African American ministerial leaders incorporate spiritual direction and soul care into ministry, they will enhance, intensify, and solidify their relationship with God, themselves, and others. This is the emerging church paradigm. This is the enhancement of our faith. This is our God-given purpose. Thank you, Dr. Weems, for your openness and transparency. (Location 1197)
Chapter 6: DR. HAROLD CARTER Prayer and Generational Spiritual Foundation
The late Dr. Harold A. Carter, pastor of New Shiloh Baptist Church in Baltimore, Maryland, authored the book The Prayer Tradition of Black People. Dr. Carter’s family, from Dallas County, Alabama, was committed to a pilgrimage of prayer.1 With (Location 1268)
Dr. Carter’s journey demonstrates the effectiveness and impact of generational prayer. (Location 1271)
Therefore, he committed to producing a book on prayer that would “lift up the Black prayer tradition, so that it will command the scholarly attention of theologians and the serious concern of all persons who seek a fuller understanding of the Black religious experience in the New World.” (Location 1273)
According to Carter, it is a “spiritual force necessary for the Black community’s continued growth and a vital contribution to the community of mankind.” (Location 1277)
Let us not be naive; even though we know that “prayer works,” some spiritual factors continue to keep us on bended knees. Unfortunately and to much dismay, the slave mentality has not been completely abolished by all of society. (Location 1288)
Healing comes from within, however that does not negate that many times there are external factors that affect our healing. (Location 1294)
I can take all my petitions to God in prayer and trust him for a favorable outcome. When his Word says all things will work together for good for those who love him and to those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28), I believe it. I cast my cares on him, knowing that he cares for me (1 Peter 5:7). (Location 1306)
In his book, Dr. Carter made note of prayer leaders who changed the trajectory of churches, making them prayerful Christian communities.
Here are several examples of impactful churches, ministries, and even a movement that emerged out of the discipline of prayer:
In 1711, Richard Allen, founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, started his ministry with a prayer meeting in Philadelphia.7
Andrew Bryan of Goose Creek, South Carolina, “was one of the first pastors of note among Black people in America, [and] founded his church with prayer.”8
In 1916, Elder Lucy Smith, “one of the most successful of the early Pentecostal leaders in the city of Chicago, . . . organized a one room prayer meeting in her house.” (Location 1316)
In 1924, Bishop Ida Robinson founded the Mt. Sinai Holy Church with this core value: “One of the strong features of Mt. Sinai Holy Church is prayer.”10
Bishop Mother Rosa Artimus Horne, a former seamstress, “rose to power among her followers in the city of New York.”11 In 1929, Bishop Horne’s church was incorporated in Brooklyn, New York. At the funeral of Mrs. Alberta Christine Williams King, the mother of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rev. Dr. Ralph David Abernathy “described her as ‘Mother of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.’ This woman, through fortitude and prayer, always gave the orders (Location 1322)
As you see from the list above (and perhaps from other personal spiritual references), God uses prayer to birth his agenda. (Location 1329)
Too often we look for shortcuts to having in-depth spirituality and maturity, but look no further. (Location 1344)
Within and outside the walls of the church, we must continuously reinforce the power of prayer. It is the healing agent to every ailment. It is the key to effective spiritual direction. It is the source of our hope. It is the directive to freedom. It is soul care. It is our balm in Gilead (Location 1348)
Simply put, the most important tool for equipping, empowering, and advancing the kingdom of God is the tool of prayer. (Location 1351)
Prayer is a vital and prominent spiritual discipline in many Black communities. It is a central tenet of our faith and a significant part of our spiritual identity. (Location 1366)
Prayer and social concerns go hand in hand. Not only is the power of prayer noticeable within our communities, but our belief in prayer is also evident to outsiders looking in. (Location 1368)
Thank you, Dr. Carter for hearing God in the writing of your book. Your obedience is monumental; it’s affecting men and women now and will do so for ages to come. To God be the glory! (Location 1385)
Chapter 7: DR. JESSICA INGRAM Prayer and Spiritual Direction
Dr. Ingram serves as the Episcopal supervisor for the Tenth Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. (Location 1440)
What a reassuring and comforting idea: communicating with God as we identify him as our traveling companion. (Location 1446)
There is nowhere we can go that God is not already there. He is omnipresent. It is our humble pleasure as pray-ers to identify and abide in his loving presence. He is there waiting for us to acknowledge him and to communicate with him through and in prayer. (Location 1447)
In addition, Dr. Ingram denotes that prayer is the way we establish a relationship with our traveling companion.
Her use of the word establish is significant. (Location 1451)
As an African American scholar, Dr. Ingram is a minister of the gospel as well as a certified spiritual director. She received a doctorate of ministry in spirituality from United Theological Seminary and her certification in spiritual direction from Colombiere Conference and Retreat Center in Clarkston, Michigan. She was the first African American in the country to be trained at this center. (Location 1463)
I am most thankful that we now have an organization called Spiritual Directors of Color (SDC), which was founded in 2008 and is based in Washington, DC. (Location 1468)
Dr. Ingram encourages her readers to come aside and find rest. As a traveling companion journeying with God, she inspires the reader to go deeper in prayer to levels of intimacy that God eagerly desires for us. Traveling with God transforms us to be people compelled to journey consistently with Jesus. Enjoy the spiritual ride of dwelling with your Creator! (Location 1490)
Chapter 8: MRS. CORETTA SCOTT KING Prayer and Civil Rights
Mrs. Coretta Scott King, wife of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., deeply understood the power of prayer. (Location 1553)
When people of God are assigned a giant-sized task, it is imperative that they are connected with mature and equipped prayer-warring intercessors. (Location 1556)
The enormous task Dr. King and Coretta undertook was that of being civil rights leaders. (Location 1558)
Mrs. King’s heartfelt definition of prayer:
“Prayer is how we open our hearts to God, how we make that vital connection that empowers us to overcome overwhelming obstacles and become instruments of God’s will. . . . I am more convinced than ever before that prayer gives us strength and hope, a sense of divine companionship, as we struggle for justice and righteousness.” (Location 1567)
From the outset, her heart was conditioned by the Spirit of God to endure the assignment of being instrumental in the civil rights movement. (Location 1571)
Truly her prayer was a comforting source of communication with her God. (Location 1576)
The language of struggle and suffering is not foreign to the African American community, and such language is often used when referring to (Location 1578)
Struggle and suffering are often part of the prayer journey to justice. (Location 1579)
Unfortunately injustice and brutality have not ceased. Mrs. King’s cry for freedom and justice still rings throughout the land. We must continue to pray and trust God for a better day. (Location 1609)
God’s sovereignty prevails even more. Unrighteous behavior does not escape his sight from the heavenly throne. He sees every inequality of his people, and he will grant justice in his kairos time.
This is our eschatological hope. This is our prayer of faith. (Location 1611)
They came believing in the power of God’s Word. Throughout the centuries, people of African descent have prayed and continue to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). During such times, prayers were not always spoken; they were often uttered in moaning and groaning. They believed and relied on sovereign God who could answer and deliver them from oppression and injustice. (Location 1626)
As one matures in prayer, the composition of his prayers may transform. During the maturation process, prayer may “become less vocal and more mental.” (Location 1631)
In challenging times, in the past and in the present, people of African descent often cannot speak words because the pain is so painful. At one point Mrs. King was silent. Mother Bethel was silent. Ebenezer was silent. These times leave one silent in prayer. (Location 1636)
Chapter 9: DR. JAMES WASHINGTON Prayer and Rest
Dr. James Melvin Washington, who was a professor of church history at Union Theological Seminary and adjunct professor of religion at Columbia University, wrote a very compelling book titled Conversations with God: Two Centuries of Prayer by African Americans. (Location 1684)
In it, he reflected on the significance of spending quantitative as well as qualitative time with God. Both aspects of being in God’s presence are necessary and valuable for an intimate relationship with him. (Location 1685)
A selah moment. A pause. A time to stop and be with your Creator, your Savior, your God, your friend, your companion. (Location 1688)
The Bible indicates and emphasizes the imperative of rest. In the Ten Commandments given to the children Israel, God commanded them to remember to keep the holy sabbath day as a sacred time of rest (Location 1690)
The Hebrew word for “rest” is nuakh, which means to be quiet. Another Hebrew word for “rest” is shabbat, meaning to cease. The Greek word for “rest” is anapausis, a call to refreshment.
Combining these definitions invites us to a quiet space without struggle that results in a crisp, refreshing season. (Location 1698)
Our rest today gives us a glimpse of the eternal peaceful state we will abide in throughout eternity. (Location 1716)
Due to the unimaginable oppression of their daily lives, many people of the African diaspora did not have the luxury of entering into such rest. Their focus was on surviving their rigorous schedule of working from sunup to sundown. (Location 1720)
At that time I did not know that good spiritual rituals can lead to burnout. (Location 1732)
Either we have had an opportunity to spend quality time with God and now know we are missing him, or we have never known him in an intimate way and, as a result, do not know what we are missing. (Location 1742)
In either case, we are living in a spiritual drought. When the soul is not provided spiritual food, it becomes malnourished. (Location 1744)
And because the soul was designed to be fed, if not properly monitored it feeds on whatever is placed before it. It feeds on worldly enticement and an inadequate diet unless our intent is to provide it with a nourishing spiritual diet. That would be real soul food. (Location 1744)
A spiritual hunger for resting and being in the presence of God is birthed and grows innately in the human soul. (Location 1746)
Dr. Washington was very much aware of how busy schedules sap spiritual intimacy, and he encouraged men and women of God to be intentional about preserving sacred times. The people of God must steal away to be refilled in the presence of the Lord. (Location 1756)
It is high time to make companionship with God a priority as we deliberately put him before mass media, modern technology, movie attending, concert going, shopping sprees, and luxury vacations. There (Location 1762)
Dr. Washington’s documentation of the gift of prayer reveals a rich spiritual heritage that will be greatly appreciated for generations to come. (Location 1778)
Chapter 10 DR. HOWARD THURMAN Prayer and Suffering
Dr. Howard Thurman is considered one of the most influential African American spiritual leaders. His commitment to meditative and contemplative disciplines was apparent in his writings, his teachings, and his lifestyle.
His life of dedication to God was so evident that he was considered a mystic by some.
The ancient Greek word for “mysticism” is myō, which means “to conceal.”
The life of the mystic is hidden in Christ (Location 1843)
Dr. Thurman saw mysticism as a spiritual experience in which an individual is deliberate in their pursuit of the holy. He describes mysticism as a form of religious experience where the awareness of a “conscious and direct exposure” to God is intense. (Location 1848)
Dr. Thurman does not consider mysticism as a superior religious encounter, only different. (Location 1850)
In other words, we may seek to communicate with God, but the effectiveness of this holy time is contingent upon the readiness of our soul. (Location 1859)
When seeking to arrive at the holy destination of God’s presence, we must position our mind, body, and spirit in a way that creates soul space to commune with God. (Location 1862)
In our overly busy society, it takes great intentionality to come aside from the cares of the world to be with the maker of our very being, body, soul, and spirit. There is always something clamoring for our attention. (Location 1865)
From the inception of time, the need of people of color has been freedom. (Location 1875)
Dr. Thurman understood the plight of people of color. He committed his life to addressing the demeaning inequalities and offered wisdom and insight on how to pray through life’s challenging circumstances. (Location 1879)
He also knew that the best way to deal with oppressive injustices mentally is to seek the face of Holy God consistently, the one who, in his omniscient character, understands the relational challenges between suffering and freedom. (Location 1880)
Suffering is often a part of the journey that eventually leads to freedom, while prayer is the discipline that undergirds the complexities of the process. (Location 1882)
Like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Dr. Howard Thurman was a student of Gandhi and embraced the spirit of nonviolence in dealing with the societal evils of racial injustice. (Location 1889)
The spiritual power that would resurrect justice was accessed on bended knees. (Location 1892)
Our world is not going to change in a day, and it requires spiritual tenacity for us to experience peace. (Location 1896)
No, we are not to sit on the sidelines in complacency, we must remember the power of praying saints. Prayer and action work hand in hand. In prayer lies the exousia and dunamis power of the almighty, omnipotent God.6 (Location 1898)
One may ask, “How long?” The answer? Not long—if we just pray! We must pray. (Location 1906)
In addition to addressing social injustices, Dr. Thurman was committed to reinforcing the disciplines of teaching and learning. (Location 1911)
He knew that intimacy with the Creator empowered and equipped disciples of the kingdom. He was not selfish in his pursuit of God but desired that others pursue a relationship with him as well. (Location 1913)
CONCLUSION Connecting Prayer, Spiritual Direction, and Soul Care
Inclusivity is a God idea and must be an element of discussion as we look at prayer, spiritual direction, and soul care in African American practice. With (Location 1968)
Do prayer and spiritual direction in the African American faith community look different from prayer, spiritual direction, and soul care in any other faith context?
The answer to this question is twofold: no as it relates to the divine inclusivity of spirituality, and yes in the sense that the African American culture, just like any other culture, is experientially unique. (Location 1970)
The answer is no in the sense that effective prayer and spiritual direction are works of the Spirit, and ethnicity is not a determining factor in how the Spirit desires to operate. (Location 1973)
However, the answer to whether prayer, spiritual direction, and soul care look different in the African American faith community is yes,
because the plight of African Americans—and therefore their spirituality—is unique from other groups of people.
Emphatically prayer and spiritual direction look distinctive in the African American context because the spiritual and cultural experiences are exclusive to an Africana people and different from those of other ethnicities. (Location 1978)
Dr. Samuel Dewitt Proctor, who understood the cultural uniqueness of groups of people, stated, “Every culture has its own trademark and its own flavor, its own sanctions and its own criteria for what is good, what is bad and what is different.” (Location 1982)
The journey of all people (regardless of color or ethnicity) began in Genesis. The inclusivity of the Spirit of God is seen in the divine entity of life and the breath that all humanity shares. This breath and life have no individualized ethnicity. (Location 2008)
From the creation of the world, the Spirit of God has been operative and inclusive. (Location 2012)
All creatures, whether black, white, brown, red, or yellow, are communicative beings designed for the glory of God. All peoples are created to worship and to be in holy communion with our Creator. (Location 2017)
God’s desired purpose for all humanity, regardless of racial origin, age, or social status is to enter into and enjoy his presence. (Location 2025)
Christ does not isolate himself in any specific community; he is in communication with all people. (Location 2031)
If we have this attitude, then when we’re not leading we maintain our identity; we don’t think of ourselves as leaders but as servants.” (Location 2034)
He has called us to be in relationship with one another, regardless of ethnicity. He calls us to be his servants. (Location 2035)
CONNECTING REQUIRES TIME
As in the majority of society, there is a need for the Africana community to slow down and spend more quality and quantity time with Yahweh. (Location 2037)
This inundation with ministry was not intentional. But unfortunately I had become so busy doing ministry that at times I neglected the original purpose of ministry, which is to be with God and others who we love dearly. (Location 2052)
With great joy I can say that God has redeemed time with my family and friends, and he continues to do so. (Location 2056)
As an African American woman in ministry, this sharing about the constraints of time and its demands on my life is necessary. (Location 2059)
not only have I increasingly embraced the call to active ministry, I have also embraced the call to just be. (Location 2064)
THE LEGACY OF A BETTER RESURRECTION
Karole Edwards, the coauthor of Beyond the Suffering, writes, “I thank Him for those sojourners and wanderers who have traveled before us, sojourners who in days past walked the rough and rugged roads lying before them, relying on faith and prayer to reach a better resurrection.” (Location 2068)
The legacy of African Americans extends beyond what is physically visible and mentally comprehendible. Our trials and tribulations have birthed an eschatological hope that is perpetually undergirded by prayer and by directives from Yahweh. (Location 2073)
The African American community has a pattern of continuously resurrecting itself. Despite the hangings and lynchings that scourged and destroyed brown, black, and tan bodies, fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, African Americans still exude an inward spiritual strength that keeps on rising regardless of adversity, injustice, and persecution. (Location 2081)
In Life with God: Reading the Bible for Spiritual Transformation, Richard Foster wrote, “A spiritual discipline is an intentionally directed action by which we do what (Location 2090)
we can do in order to receive from God the ability (or power) to do what we cannot do by direct effort.” (Location 2092)
This resurrection power emanates from God and enables one to perform supernatural tasks. This is the foundation of the African American faith community, which knew that with Christ all things can be accomplished (Philippians 4:13). (Location 2094)
THE LEGACY OF AFRICAN AMERICAN SPIRITUALITY
Even though the language of prayer has more prominence in the African (Location 2099)
American faith tradition than the language of spiritual direction and soul care, ancient markers show that spiritual direction and soul care have been present for centuries. (Location 2099)
People of African descent have sought to understand how the trials of this life are designed to bring one closer to God. (Location 2103)
This encouraged our ancestors, who were often discouraged in this life, to keep believing regardless of the unjustified persecution. (Location 2105)
As a leader in my community and beyond, it is imperative that I understand that life comes with toils, discouragement, and suffering. (Location 2111)
We too must provide a sustainable spiritual path for those coming after us. (Location 2113)
God has blessed the Africana community by providing a legacy of spirituality through the lives of great men and women who dared to pray and to follow his holy directives. (Location 2125)
My prayer is that as spiritual leaders realize that ineffectiveness in ministry (Location 2128)
For people to develop into effective leaders, they must develop relationships that are centered in prayer, spiritual direction, and soul care. (Location 2131)
Therefore, I say, now is the time to call spiritual leaders and those they serve to become intentional about intimacy with God.
Their assignment is to disentangle themselves from the concerns of society, from technology, and from anyone or anything that gets in the way of them having an intimate relationship with their God. (Location 2132)
Therefore we can say without hesitancy that the African American faith community has a rich tradition of spiritual direction and soul care.
We may not have books written on the topic or the words ingrained in our language of faith, but spiritual direction and soul care are intricately engrained in our rich culture. (Location 2143)
The ultimate goal in prayer and spiritual direction is that souls are cared for and nurtured. (Location 2148)
CONNECTING AND MOVING FORWARD IN SPIRITUALITY
The spirituality of African American ministry leaders may be characterized as unique due to its origination on the soil of Africa. This fact alone makes ours a distinctive culture. (Location 2156)
Both slavery and segregation were cultural circumstances that affected the spirituality of an African people. (Location 2157)
Such conditions forced the African American church to develop a unique style of prayer. (Location 2158)
The strength of the African American spiritual culture is rooted in prayers of faith that pursue the will of God. Such prayers were prayed by our great, great-grandparents, our grandparents, and our mothers and fathers. (Location 2158)
Though the language of spiritual direction is not prevalent within the Black church, there are numerous aspects and practices present in our faith community. (Location 2161)
Our leaders have developed language and practices of spiritual direction that bear a similarity to those in the European American church. (Location 2162)
In addition, we too practice the discipline of spiritual direction. (Location 2164)
We will have distinctives due to our cultural and spiritual heritage. (Location 2165)
Yes, Jesus paid for our sins, but he also used others to pave the way for the spiritual liberation of people of color. (Location 2180)
It is important to remember that, while there are similarities between African American spirituality and European American Christianity, there are also differences. (Location 2182)
Yet the disciplines of prayer, spiritual direction, and soul care are needed in all communities. (Location 2183)
God desires that all his people be in a maturing relationship with him, regardless of ethnicity or denominational affiliation. (Location 2184)
The emphasis on spiritual disciplines in the African American church is essential for the maturation of ministry leaders as well as laypeople. (Location 2185)
Such maturation is essential for the advancement of the kingdom of God. (Location 2186)