17 Aug In Case You Missed It…
Yesterday at service, Pastor John talked about “Forming Your Spirit.” He used three scriptures, 1 Corinthians 11:1, Ephesians 5:1, and Matthew 7:16-20 to discuss how we should be “imitators of Christ.” But why is it that we often become imitators of much less? By employing the spiritual disciplines of prayer, Bible reading, and spending time with God on a daily basis, we can truly follow Christ and form our spirits into Christ-likeness.
Spending Time With God:
Spending time with God should be leisure time. It must be a time when we are absolutely at peace – this is why early mornings seem to work best for most people. It’s a time to turn off the cell phone (yes, really), and truly meet with God. This time should be free of stress, emotional issues, legalism, and other distractions to be a time when we can simply lay aside all the pressures, guilt, shame, disappointments, and simply allow God to be our rest. Here are some pointers:
- Meet with God in the same place every day: Find what works best for you – you might want to just sit in your living room or on your porch, or just go for a walk.
- Meet with God at the same time every day: Meet with God at a specific time. With our busy schedules, it can be really easy to push God-time out of the day. Mornings usually work best.
- Develop a routine: It can be helpful to have a plan of action when you meet with God. It could start out with some Bible readings, then move to thanksgiving, then worship, journaling, intercession, and praying over the day. It’s your call, but good habits are healthy.
- Allow for flexibility: Stick with your routine, but go with the flow. God may want you to change up the agenda once in a while. Just remember the purpose: experiencing God – not checking off a “to do” list.
Learn To Pray:
There are four main stages to prayer: talking at God, talking to God, listening to God, and being with God.
- “Talking at God” happens when we use recited or pre-written prayers, or even the Lord’s prayer. It’s kind of like when a child learns to pray – but it can also be applied to mature pray-ers.
- “Talking to God” is a more comfortable prayer when you actually have your own words to speak to God. You speak from your heart, and it is a result of a more personal relationship with God. Since this stage of prayer may not always be positive, journaling might be a real asset.
- “Listening to God” is a more mature approach to prayer because you are simply listening for God’s voice. God wants to share in your struggles and celebrate your inner victories. When He speaks into your heart, you can hear His direction and guidance for your life.
- “Being With God” happens as we develop in our times of prayer and become more and more in tune with God in the everyday things. As we mature in God, we experience Him all day long in all sorts of things. We become much more aware of His presence. For a great example of this, read Mark Thibodeaux’s “Armchair Mystic” – Developments with Aunt Sally.
Be Prepared for Times of Dryness:
If you’re going to commit yourself to spiritual formation, you must be prepared for times of spiritual dryness. During these times, it is not that something bad happens, but rather that nothing happens at all. You might say, “I just sit there by myself with no sign of the presence of God. But there are a few points that we need to remember:
- Prayer is an uphill climb. It involves hours and hours of slow uneventful inching. It demands the type of spirit that chooses the difficult path – the road not usually taken.
- Prayer is a discipline. Professional athletic training may take hours, just so an athlete can perform for only a few minutes. Many musicians practice 8-10 hours a day for a much smaller amount of time on stage. But when we pray, we are training for the greatest event of all – the moment we meet Jesus face to face! It’s going to take time, effort, and commitment.
- Prayer is a relationship. Various relationships in our lives resemble our relationship with God. God is our parent, our spouse, and our friend. And as we know, relationships have a tendency to go up and down. Guess what? That’s ok! Even in times of dryness, as we press into Him, we come to find Him to be more than we ever expected.
- God is maturing us. Through dryness, God is growing us up. It would be nice if our prayer times were exciting and faith-filled like they were when we were first saved, but our relationship must grow. Sometimes He silently calls us to come into a deeper relationship with Him that includes some dryness.