Mind, Body, Soul, Spirit
Prayer ministry training at St. Aldate’s, Oxford, used this vivid illustration. Four people stood in a circle up front, arms around each other’s waists. If you tugged at one, all four came along. They had an unbreakable connection. They represented, of course, the body, mind, spirit and soul or emotions.
The skit was meant to illustrate the complexity of human beings. The presenting symptom in prayer ministry is rarely the root cause of the problem. Persistent physical symptoms, like stomach aches, headaches, colds and coughs, can be the result of job or relational stress. Similarly, physical ill health can cause job or relational stress.
Intellectual malaise—not using your mind, especially for the intellectually gifted, can cause depression, and its attendant problems. Extreme loneliness, relational stress or depression can affect one’s health, the vibrancy of one’s spiritual life, and even one’s ability to think clearly. And when the spiritual life, the motor of one’s life, is out of kilter or non-existent, one’s social life, physical life and friendships are below par.
In prayer ministry, I myself am less interested in praying for the presenting symptom—“I am not productive;” “I need to lose weight;” “I am lonely/angry”—and more interested in praying over and into the underlying root cause. Our symptoms—a weight problem, writers’ blocks, depression, and chronic fatigue are often the presenting “fruit” or flower. The problem lies in the roots, and that’s where healing begins.
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And so, when one prays for oneself or one’s family, it’s important to pray for vision to see the roots, as well the presenting problem, the fruit, and pray for healing of both.
The Catholic monastics evolved a schedule which gave proper weight to each of these dimensions of personality. A contemporary Benedictine schedule calls for 3.15 minutes of manual work, 3 hours of reading and study, including Scripture study, and 4.5 hours of prayer and religious activity (including the Divine Office, Eucharist and Choir Practice). The schedule included 3 meals in community and half an hour of community recreation, which I guess played a part in meeting social and emotional needs.
Excellence, in any one area, which involves concentration and focus on it—intellectually for a scholar or a blogger, spiritually for a mystic or spiritual writer, physically for an athlete, may involve some short-changing of other dimensions.
However, to neglect any of the four elements of our make up as human beings which Scripture recognizes in its statement—love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength– leaves us, to some extent, stunted, and walking with a limp.
I emphasize my spiritual life, and, to a lesser extent, my intellectual life. Socially, we have dinner together as a family almost every day, and Roy and I have a quick lunch together on weekdays. I also make sure I pencil in two coffees or lunches with friends each week. I have neglected physical fitness for years, and am in a slow recovery of strength and fitness project.
How about you? Which dimensions of human personality have you most developed? And which ones are you working on developing?