Help all leaders deepen their intimacy with God and connection with others.
Journaling is a written form of reflection. It is an open expression about one’s insights and observations about God, self and the world around you. This practice can help you not only get your thoughts out in a concrete form but also help you to look back later and see how you have been experiencing God in and around you. There is no right or wrong way of recording your reflections as it can be done in a notebook or in your phone using a notes app or even voice recording if you don’t like to write.
-Go buy a notebook or journal to begin the intentional practice of reflection and start small with just writing a sentence or two about your day and what you experienced emotionally and spiritually.
-Use these simple prompts: What’s going on in my life? Who am I becoming? Where am I struggling? When do I want to accomplish what’s next? Why do I feel the way I’m feeling?
THE JESUS PRAYER
When exploring a life with Jesus there is a simple prayer to pray when ready to give your life over to Jesus. It’s called the Jesus Prayer and it goes like this: “Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” It’s a simple and memorable prayer that reflects the honesty of who Jesus is and what we need from him to begin a life in Jesus. It’s a prayer that can be prayed regularly and not just one time.
-When you are ready pray this prayer and ask Jesus to reveal himself to you and provide the mercy and grace needed to begin this newfound journey.
-If you aren’t ready to pray this prayer, do an in-depth look at each part of this prayer: Start reading the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John to discover who Jesus Christ is and what Son of God means. Research the meaning of mercy. Research the meaning of sinner.
Begin to take a deeper look at the questions that are keeping you from building a life around following Jesus. Jesus says “Seek and you will find” (Matthew 7:7), but if you don’t actively seek out the answers to your questions your journey of discovery becomes a cul-de-sac rather than an adventure to be experienced.
Download the YouVersion Bible app and commit to reading the Devotional Plan “Jesus Answers 9 Essential Questions” https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/1920-jesus-answers-9-essential-questions
Psalm 71:8 (NIV) “My mouth is filled with your praise, declaring your splendor all day long.”– Worship is more than a song, the focus of worship is experiencing God. Worship starts with who God is, not music, not our emotions, not our feelings. Worship is about giving God the worth that he is due.
-Create a playlist of your favorite songs of worship and sing along or let the words wash over you.
-Learn to worship God without music, like in observing nature and offering praise to God for the sights, sounds, taste and texture of His creation.
Of all the disciplines, prayer is probably the one we feel most comfortable with. We are just not that good at it. Therefore, the goal of practicing prayer as a discipline is to explore it in fresh ways. A problem in prayer is that we have a tendency to view it merely as something that we do, rather than someone we are with. Prayer is relational. It is just as relational as walking and talking with a friend. As you begin you might find it helpful to utilize Richard Foster’s three directions of prayer: upward (thanking God), inward (for self), and outward (for others).
-As you begin to practice prayer as a spiritual discipline, try to pray in new and different ways. For example, if you always pray silently, attempt to pray out loud. If you always pray with your eyes closed and head bowed, pray with your eyes open and face raised to God. If you pray with your hands folded, consider praying with your hands open or raised.
-Taking prayer walks can be a wonderfully refreshing exercise. If you walk your neighborhood, pray for the people whose homes you pass. If you walk during your workday, consider praying for your co-workers or family. If you walk in a public place, pray for the salvation of those around you. The ideas are only as endless as your creativity allows them to be.
-Consider praying passages of Scripture. Many are familiar with praying the Lord’s prayer. It is especially easy to pray the Psalms. Where possible, make these prayers personal by exchanging your name or personal pronouns.
Exodus 20:8. “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy” — Keeping a Sabbath day is more than a discipline, it’s also one of the Ten Commandments. To keep a Sabbath is to set aside a 24-hour day in which you do no work to rest in God’s person and provision. Sabbath is a time to refrain from your normal responsibilities in order to pray and play with God and others. Do no work means not working at your job, not earning money, not getting engrossed in projects, and, as much as possible, not engaging in your normal life responsibilities, including at home. Obviously, if you have children at home you still need to care for them and you may need to prepare meals or do other things around the house, but as much as possible you do these things before or after your Sabbath so that you can just relax and be in God’s presence. The point of Sabbath is reliance on God and resting in his love.
A Sabbath may feel daunting but remember to practice as you can, not as you can’t. If trying to rest feels too exhausting either you aren’t doing it right or you are overdue for real rest.
A Sabbath involves:
Stop- don’t work
Rest- sleep in, take a nap, relax
Delight- resting doesn’t mean “do nothing”, it can involve doing something you love that feels restful and refreshing.
Pray- spend intentional time in prayer and contemplation of God’s love and affection for you.
Romans 12:2 “. . . but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Study is the primary way we engage ourselves with the written and spoken Word of God. Study can also focus on the reading of good books. An often neglected area of study involves the observation of things and people. The discipline of study will provide the basis for knowledge and understanding as you venture on your journey. It is always important to undertake study with an attitude of humility and teachability since any practice of increasing knowledge can have a tendency to feed one’s pride or arrogance.
-Using a concordance (either book form or computer work fine), choose a topic of interest to you that you have been desiring to learn more about. Look up the word/concept in the concordance, reading each portion of Scripture where it is found. After you have done this, write several paragraphs summarizing what the Bible has to say about the topic.
-Choose a book on a topic of interest. If you do not have one, visit a local bookstore. As you read the book, spend at least a half hour in reflection for every hour you spend reading. Use a highlighter or pen to mark sections of the book you find especially helpful. Write down specific page numbers or notes in the front or back of the book that will help you return to portions you find significant. When you are finished reading the book, you might want to write a one page summary listing six to eight key quotations, as well as a paragraph critique describing how the book has had impact on your spiritual formation.
The practice of solitude is easily passed over in the Bible. Many of the most prominent characters in Scripture made solitude a part of their lives. Jesus practiced solitude throughout his life and ministry. At the beginning of his ministry, he went to the wilderness for an extended period of fasting and prayer (Matthew 4:1-2). He sought solitude prior to preaching (Mark 1:35-39), after he had healed a leper (Mark 1:45), after hearing about the death of John the Baptist (Matthew 14:13), after his followers had been involved in ministry (Matthew 14:23), and before he chose the disciples (Luke 6:12- 16). At the end of his life, he sought solitude in the garden of Gethsemene (Matthew 26:36ff). What makes solitude so important? John Ortberg says, “Solitude is the one place where we can gain freedom from the forces of society that will otherwise relentlessly mold us.” Henri Nouwen describes solitude as “the furnace of transformation.”If Jesus needed time to be with the Father, how much more do we need this time? In solitude, it is important to listen, to pay attention to what comes to you as the prime desire is to hear Jesus.
-Solitude rarely happens unless we schedule it. Therefore, the first step is to get out your calendar and schedule the time. Determine where you might be able to spend some daily time in solitude. Schedule it just as you would an appointment. Then schedule a time where you can spend 4-6 hours alone. If possible, schedule several days where you can get away for an extended time sometime in the next six months.
-Find a place this week where you can practice solitude in the midst of your workday. It might be finding a quiet, peaceful spot during the lunch hour. Experiment with this to see how God uses it in your life.
Jesus wants to speak to us! He will speak to us and we can learn to recognize his voice. This is why silence becomes so crucial. There are two aspects within this discipline. The first is to pursue silence as the absence of noise. A second arena of this discipline is to practice the silence of not speaking. Silence is more easily practiced in solitude since it is more difficult to be silent in the presence of others. Listening is very important to the discipline of silence. You must pay attention. You must want to hear. This will not come easy for most, so you must persist with this.
-If you want to learn the value of silence, how to recognize God’s voice, and how to distinguish God’s voice from the voices of others, begin by asking God to teach you about this. It is important to persist with this discipline, especially if your mind is racing. It often takes a while for our minds to quiet down.
-Start by sitting quietly, listening to your breathing. Then enlarge your listening to include the room you are sitting in. Slowly listen for sounds coming from other places in the building you are in. Then include the sounds outside such as birds, traffic, a lawnmower, etc. By extending the range of your listening in this way, your mind can become less obsessed with particular concerns and more sensitive to the space in which all sounds are happening.
-You might attempt to spend a day using as few words as possible, and complete silence if possible. It is best to do this without telling anyone what you are doing. As you go through your day, take note of tendencies such as desiring to fill empty space with talking, how being silent aids you in listening, etc. At the end of your day, you might find it helpful to write down what you observed and learned.
Fasting, according to Richard Foster, is “the voluntary denial of a normal function for the sake of intense spiritual activity.” Fasting is not just denying yourself food. It is exchanging the needs of the physical body for those of the spiritual. Ultimately fasting is to voluntarily abstain from eating/drinking for an extended period of time. “Eating” and “drinking” can represent anything that you consume physically or figuratively.
Remember fasting is less about what you are abstaining from and more about feasting on God.
Prepare for a fast:
Prepare Spiritually – Confess any sin
Prepare Mentally – Set goal and rely on God
Prepare Physically – Wean yourself in preparation vs feasting before
Prepare Emotionally – You will experience hunger pain and cravings but God is stronger than your craving
Prepare Relationally – Let loved ones know your intentions and to be respectful during this time
Note: Do not attempt a food fast until you’ve consulted with your doctor if you suffer from any medical conditions or have a history of any eating disorders.
Start small. You could commit to a single day or even a single meal at first and evaluate where God is leading you next.
Types of fasts you could try:
1. Full Fast: Drink liquids only.
2. Partial Fast: Not eating from Sunrise to Sunset
3. Selective Fast: Abstain from certain foods (ie caffeine, meat, etc)
4. Daniel Fast: Abstain from meat, sugar, and bread; eat only fruits and vegetables while drinking water/juice.
5. Soul Fast: Abstain from something that is consuming your time and energy (ie social media, TV, music, etc.)
Spiritual Direction is the art of Christian conversation and listening carried out in the context of a trusting relationship. A Spiritual Director is a faith companion who listens to your life story with an ear for discerning the movement of the Holy Spirit in your life. God is the True Guide and Director, while the human spiritual director is like a coach or midwife, assisting you in noticing and responding to the inner voice of God. The director is primarily interested in your experience of God and how you can follow God’s call. That process is a spiritual journey into the truth about God, yourself, your relationships, your work, and the world. The premise of Spiritual Direction is that God is present and active in your daily life in a multitude of often unnoticed ways. When you slow down, begin to reflect, and take a long, loving look at what is happening around you, you begin to become aware of the experience of the presence of God. Intimacy with God leads naturally into transformation, healing, and action.
-Find an informal director who is a spiritually mature friend who is willing to accompany you in your journey and ask you thoughtful questions about God and where He is speaking in your life.
-A formal spiritual director is someone who has had significant training in direction. This is typically a monthly meeting with a professional Spiritual Director for a small fee. If you’d like a list of qualified directors contact Dave Wilson [email protected]
PRAYER - MEDITATION/CONTEMPLATION
Of all the disciplines, prayer is probably the one we feel most comfortable with. We are just not that good at it. Therefore, the goal of practicing prayer as a discipline is to explore it in fresh ways. For example, many have only experienced prayer as talking to God. One of the most joyful revelations is to experience the reality that prayer is just as much listening to God. Meditation is a wonderful place to start for a person who desires to receive nurture from God. It is an intentional vertical connection that is both spiritually nurturing and emotionally healing. It is important to understand the difference between meditation and study. Thomas Merton has defined this well: “By study, we seek the truth in books or in some other source outside our own minds. In meditation, we strive to absorb what we have already taken in.”
-Select a portion of Scripture. You might find it helpful to use a translation or paraphrase that you are not as familiar with so that the words are fresh. Try repeating it several times. Each time you repeat it, emphasize a different part of it. You might consider writing it on an index card and placing it somewhere to remind you.
-Choose a phrase or familiar Bible verse or which you desire to become a deeper part of your life. Sitting in quiet, focus on this phrase or concept. Consider taking this concept with you into your day.
-One very helpful exercise suggested by Richard Foster is called “palms down, palms up.” You begin by placing your palms down as a symbolic indication of your desire to turn over any concerns you may have to God. Pray about your concerns as you do this. Next, turn your palms up as a symbol of your desire to receive from the Lord. As you meditate in this posture, pray in a way as if receiving directly from the Lord. There is something very helpful about using our hands to illustrate what is going on in our hearts.