I’m not a highly disciplined person, so I was a little amused when I was interviewed about the spiritual disciplines in my life. However, I am not a slacker and I do practice some of the the usual “disciplines.” Here are the questions I was asked and my brief responses about three areas. I am sure I have much more to learn.
What disciplines do you maintain?
Not nearly enough. But here are some
Probably my most consistent discipline is fasting. I have been fasting Mondays for about 14 years now. I am not legalistic about it–when I travel it is often difficult and I skip occasional Mondays. I sometimes make it up on another day.
My purpose when I began was for focused prayer for my children. That is still a main emphasis, but it is broader now, and a sweet day to focus on the Lord.
I do occasional longer fasts, though have not felt called or have not listened to a call for something like a 40-day fast. Sometimes I fast other things–computer games, crossword puzzles, television–things that steal my time.
I do not find longer fasting easy, though Mondays is not hard. But i am willing.
Prayer has become a major part of my life. I have always prayed, but having a challenging prodigal son drove me to my knees in deep and significant ways. I have a much greater understanding of my total dependence on God. I am still trying to grasp how prayer works, but I know it does–at many levels.
One level is captured in a saying God gave me: The work of God is done on our knees. Then we go find out what happened. I am gaining some understanding about how we do ministry, or see God work in lives–ours or others’.
But prayer is so much more. It is worship, fellowship, friendship, conversation, crying, crying out. It is being honest with God about my feelings, and then telling Him I trust Him no matter what. It is praising, thanking and asking.
I pray throughout the day–an ongoing conversation with God. I write prayers in my journal. But the greatest effort at a discipline of prayer is on my prayer retreats.
I take at least two of these each year, from 3-6 days. I don’t only pray, though sometimes it fills much of the time. Often the mornings are for time in the Word and prayer.
These times are the most structured I do. I choose people and opportunities to pray through. Like: Day 1–what is God saying to me? Day 2–in-depth prayer for my family. Day 3–Leaders, staff, extended family–often for the children too. Day 4–Ministry needs, broader family of God, kingdom work.
I spend some time in the Word most days. Sometimes it is structured–a book or topical study, or a study written by someone else. Other times I read and and seek to listen to what God is communicating. Sometimes Iwork on messages–discerning what a passage is saying to me and what it might say to others.
I don’t feel like I am a great student, certainly not a scholar. I tend to focus on application.
How do you structure your life to find time for these habits?
I mentioned my prayer retreats. I have to work hard to get and keep them in my schedule.
I try to plan my day so I have some time with the Lord each morning–in the Word, journaling, praying. I often pray when I go walking. I try to go to bed earlier so I can get up early enough for unrushed time with God, but I’m not succeeding too well at it.
I travel a lot, and flights are a great time for some extended reading and prayer.
Steve and I usually spend some time in the Word and prayer together on Sunday mornings (we go to church on Sunday evenings). We pray briefly most mornings and evenings.
What suggestions might you offer to someone else seeking to develop greater fruitfulness in their spiritual disciplines?
Ask God what He is saying to you. Often it is best to work with how He has made you and what fits your schedule. But sometimes He asks you to do something more stretching or not so easy for you.
Make it a priority. What one discipline is God speaking to you about? Don’t try to do it all at once. Make a commitment. Follow through. Grow. Hopefully it even becomes a habit. See what is next.
If you need structure, try to set it up. Write it into your schedule. Ask someone to hold you accountable. Make specific choices so you practice a discipline instead of doing what you feel like.
But don’t get legalistic. The purposes for these disiciplines is relationship with God, not so you can do what you think you should, or what others say you should do.
A helpful insight for me was that I do things not because I should, but because I have to. That is, I am so desperate and needy for God that I have to seek Him with all my being–and time and desires and work.
It is about a Person, not performance. God will love and accept you if you don’t do any of this. But you will be the loser because you gain so much as you seek Him.