I've been a Christian for twenty years and have swung from legalistically practicing spiritual disciplines to neglecting them to a more balanced, steady approach.
I find myself more engaged when I better understand how my practices shape me. We all put energy toward some form of routine, and our habits form us one way or another.
But why do personal and corporate disciplines around God's Word and prayer matter?
Here are at least three reasons.
1. Spiritual Disciplines move us toward emotional and spiritual maturity
In The Leader's Journey, Herrington, Taylor, and Creech share that spiritual disciplines provide a safe space to work out our anxieties, anger, sadness, and other challenging emotions with God.
The benefit of this time with God is He can handle our unhealthy outbursts much better than other people. By working through these inner-world struggles with God first, we prepare ourselves to love others more like Christ.
2. Spiritual Disciplines create character Muscle Memory
Rachel and I are digging Blown Away right now. Contestants regularly admit they're new to glassblowing and not that skilled. Then you learn they've been blowing glass for ten to fifteen years. The confident glassblowers all have thirty or more years of experience.
Imagine learning a craft like glassblowing and then honing your muscle memory through decades of practice. The result is you become a fantastic artist.
In Tempered Resilience, Todd Bolsinger compares spiritual disciplines to habit formation, leading to character formation.
The slow going, consistent practices in God's Word and prayer hone our smallest impulses, forming habits that ultimately form the character of Christ in us.
3. Spiritual Disciplines shape our Worldview
In Recapturing the Wonder, Mike Cosper points out that our routine has a worldview. This means the habits that we cultivate tell us a story about the world we inhabit.
Binging shows non-stop without constraint tells a story about how we see ourselves in the world — as consumers who deserve non-stop entertainment.
Likewise, committing to spiritual disciplines is an act of submission to God's story — that we are in deep need of a Savior who grants us life through a relationship with Him.
Train yourselves for Godliness
Nobody says it as well as St. Paul:
Train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. - 1 Timothy 4:7-8
Like our glassblowing friends who see themselves as amateurs after a decade of practice, let's not be too quick to conclude we've arrived.
Let's give ourselves to the daily practice of the presence of God through Word and prayer. Let's exercise patience, knowing that we have a lifetime to get to know God — followed by all eternity.
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