Although I try to be a disciplined person, when it comes to my spiritual life, I tend to go through the motions, defaulting to the same Bible readings and devotional time. While these are essential elements of the Christian faith, there are many ways God wants to speak to His people. The question is: Are we poised to hear Him?
Here are nine disciplines we’ve lost along our journey toward God and how we can begin to get them back:
As a writer, it would be easy to assume journaling would come easy for me. But actually, as a discipline, it is one of the hardest! Yet, I experience great catharsis when I journal. Though journaling is not essential to the Christian life, it does have rich rewards to yield to us when we practice it faithfully.
My husband has books of journals he has kept for years. Occasionally he will take them out, flip through the pages and reflect on all the ways God has moved in His life since he wrote those entries.
We are called to write down the revelations the Lord gives us. Habakkuk 2:2 says, “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.” This helps others because it is a testimony of the ways God is working in our lives. It is also a great tool for us to look back on all God as done by writing it down, so we can review it later.
If you struggle with journaling, try this: start simple, keeping a gratitude journal where you simply list a handful of things each day you are grateful for. Or start by just writing out one prayer request to God each day.
In college, one of my assignments for a media class was to go one day without observing any media. This meant: no reading billboards, no listening to the radio, no watching TV, no surfing the internet. I did pretty well, that was until I had to go to the hospital because I fell and broke a bone in my foot. As a friend wheeled me into the ER, a blaring TV greeted me at the door.
In this media saturated, noisy world in which we live, it can be downright impossible to get an hour, let alone five minutes of silence to ourselves. God not only speaks in the noise of the world, but also in the quiet whispers. But how will we hear the whisper if we don’t get quiet enough to hear it?
If you struggle with silence, try this: For five minutes just sit in silence. Set a timer if you must. It will be tough at first, but as with any discipline, the more we practice, the easier it gets. Once you’ve mastered five minutes move to 10, then 15, until you hit a daily maximum of silence. Then you can really have a “quiet time.”
Like silence, solitude can be hard to practice regularly. However, God wants to spend time in fellowship with you. What a thought! By positioning yourself alone, it makes room for God to speak to you without any duties or responsibilities to distract you. This can be done by implementing a daily devotional time.
If you struggle with solitude, try this: Find a quiet place in your home (if you have a quiet place) and meet there as if you were meeting a friend. Although God has the power to speak wherever He chooses, you’ll be amazed at how often you hear from God when you put yourself in a location where that can take place.
Out of all the disciplines I have listed, fasting is the hardest. I hate those pesky hunger pangs that strike at the worst times, making my stomach sound like rolling thunder. But the self-control and closeness to God I achieve through fasting is worth the sacrifice.
Just a few hours into a fast and I immediately draw near to God, clinging to Him to help me get through the next wave of hunger or to dull the pain of the occasional headache. Due to medical conditions, however, not everyone can fast from food. There are other things you can fast from to achieve the same effect.
If you struggle with fasting, try this: Try fasting from media, shopping, etc. You can also fast from one aspect of food without depriving yourself of food completely like soda or sweets. No matter what you choose, God will honor your efforts. If you are yearning to draw near to God, fasting is the best discipline to try.
When I’m not putting my best foot forward in my spiritual life, I pick up my pre-made reading plan, check off the box, and read the words, most of which I don’t retain.
If you struggle with studying, try this: Bring out a commentary and study the meanings behind original Greek and Hebrew words. It is interesting to say the least, but it will also help you to allow the word to give new meaning to your life because you studied it yourself rather than blindly accepting other people’s interpretations without doing the work of testing it.
This is one of the simplest disciplines to incorporate in an ordinarily busy life because you can place verses all over.
If you struggle with memorization, try this: Write verses you want to commit to memory on an index card and tape them around your house or office – wherever you frequent the most. Every time you look in the mirror, you can read the verse you taped to it. Every time you open the fridge for a quick snack, feed your mind by memorizing the verse you taped onto it as well.
Additionally, technology can be handy when it comes to this. Use an app or the reminders feature on your phone to have a verse pop up first thing in the morning or the last thing at night.
Do what works for you but remember the benefits of how memorization feeds us – mind, body, and soul.
This isn’t what you think. With New Age and Eastern philosophies relying heavily on this tradition, Christians have removed it as a part of their tradition for fear they will be worshipping a false god. But Scripture says we should embrace meditation, “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful” (Joshua 1:8).
In this context, if we dwell on the word of God, it will be easy to recall and proclaim when needed. Jesus did this when facing temptation from the devil, and we should too.
If you struggle with meditation, try this: Make an effort to repeat your favorite verses during the day. When your boss has placed another pile of paperwork on your desk, repeat Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”
When you are stuck in traffic for another hour, repeat, Ecclesiastes 7:9: “Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger settles in the lap of a fool.”
The more verses you recall, the more you will renew your mind, and the quicker the fruits of the Spirit will develop in your life, helping you navigate life’s tumultuous times with ease.
Prayer is an essential part of any Christian’s walk with God. But so often, we associate prayer with talking rather than listening. Throughout Scripture, people have heard an audible voice from God. This is probably because biblical times were simpler in terms of less distractions. We can listen for his voice, but we have to remove the distractions first.
If you struggle with listening, try this: Similar to silence and solitude which are harder to incorporate into our lives, listening can be achieved by setting a timer for five minutes and listening for God’s voice. God can choose to speak during that time or not, but we must put ourselves in a position to hear from God.
Hospitality is a lost art among the church, yet Jesus spent a lot of time displaying it and receiving it from others. Hospitality is more than just inviting friends over for a party or opening your home during the holidays, but rather a way of life. Although it may take the form of inviting people over, it involves more than a home because Jesus had no home.
Hospitality involves a cheerful and giving heart and a willingness to offer what we have to others to meet their needs, particularly our brothers and sisters in Christ.
If you struggle with hospitality, try this: Creating a gift basket for a new neighbor, meeting the financial needs of a struggling missionary, or offering a tissue or shoulder for a sad friend to cry on are all tangible examples of displaying hospitality to others.
But hospitality may also mean humbling yourself to receive hospitality from others when you are struggling. When you have a financial, spiritual or emotional need, do you reach out to your church body for assistance, or do you keep quiet, embarrassed of your need in the first place? Jesus accepted food and gifts from others freely and we should, too. The more we give of ourselves to others the humbler and Christlike we become.
Spiritual disciplines can be difficult to practice. But as with exercise and proper nutrition, they help us mentally and emotionally. Better still, it draws us closer to God in intimacy and fellowship, which gives purpose and meaning both in our lives and in others’ lives too.
Michelle S. Lazurek is an award-winning author, speaker, pastor's wife and mother. Winner of the Golden Scroll Children's Book of the Year, the Enduring Light Silver Medal and the Maxwell Award, she is a member of the Christian Author's Network and the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. She is also an associate literary agent with Wordwise Media Services. For more information, please visit her website at michellelazurek.com.