"No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." Hebrews 12:11
Peter tells us that God has provided us with all that we need and it is our responsibility to put forth effort to grow. We can grow in our faith using a variety of spiritual disciplines. These will help us to be productive and effective as individuals and as a church family. We will look at a few of these disciplines this week.
Prayer is commanded in the Bible. The discipline of prayer is a way to be obedient to this commandment. Prayer requires concentration and focus. Teaching our cells to concentrate is one of the reasons we close our eyes to pray. We also need to close our ears and mind as well to the many distractions around us.
Prayer harvests humility, dependence on God, and compassion for others. Prayer should include, among other things, praise for God's greatness, gratitude for God's gifts, petitions for you and others, confession of your struggles and sins, and whatever the spirit brings to your mind.
Sometimes when we feel stuck or without words we can turn to the Bible to find prayers. Look up the following prayers and keep them close by.
- The Lord's Prayer Matthew 6:9-13
- Nehemiah's prayer Nehemiah 1:5-11
- Solomon’s prayer 1 Kings 8:22-61
- Many of the Psalms are prayers. Some good ones to start with are Psalms 10, 59, 83 and 86.
Worship is more than an activity: it is an attitude- an attitude of awe and gratitude, of humble submission to God's greatness and grace, of obedience and love.
The spiritual discipline of worship is not limited to the activities we do on Sundays. Every activity and every relationship in our daily life can be a way to worship God. Sunday worship is the best initial training ground for this discipline. As we continue developing this habit of worshiping God, we will see Sunday worship as the beginning of our worship, rather than as the only worship time.
Look up the following verses which give the biblical basis and examples of worship. Pay attention to how we can incorporate this into our daily lives.
- Worship must be to God and God only. Matthew 4:10
- Worship must be in spirit and in truth. John 4:23-24
- Worship may be in a public place. Luke 24:53
- Worship may be done in private. Romans 16:5
- Believers are commanded to worship God regularly. Hebrews 10:25
Fasting is not a spiritual discipline that you hear much about. Many times it is dismissed as an old practice. However, fasting is an important opportunity for meaningful spiritual growth.
So, what is fasting and how do I do it?
Fasting fosters humility, reliance on God, compassion, gratitude, and self control. Fasting is not simply giving up something but rather giving up the time that something would fill and dedicating that time to God through prayer and Biblical reflection. Fasting from food is a good way to practice fasting. However, there are other things which you could abstain from that may be more effective. Television and social media often consumes much of our lives. When we fast from these things, as well as other things, we are reminded that our dependence on God is sufficient. In the Bible, we can see how fasting was often a way of seeking God's favor or guidance. Look up the following verses and spend time in prayer asking God what area of your life would benefit most from a time of fasting.
- Moses fasted when he received God's commandments. Exodus 34:28
- Nehemiah fasted seeking God's favor. Nehemiah 1:4
- Daniel fasted seeking God's favor. Daniel 9:3, 10:2-3
- Paul fasted seeking God's guidance. Acts 9:9
Evangelism is an important spiritual discipline. Evangelism is a command that is given to Christian but sharing one's faith with others doesn't always come natural. Studying the scriptures helps us to become more confident which will in turn help us evangelize. The more we know about God and His plan, the better we can share it. Prayer is also a helpful tool in preparing for evangelism. The closer we are to God, the more likely we are to share with others. It is important that we train ourselves instruments used by God.
Read about Jesus’ command to his people to spread the gospel in Matthew 28:19-20
Look up 1st Peter 3:15. Peter is telling believers that they must be ready to give an answer concerning the hope they have. Are you ready to give an answer?
Friday: Wrap up
Spiritual disciplines should be....
Practices that permeate every area of our lives. Ones that help us focus on God as well as building up other believers. Disciplines help us to realize our dependence on God and give us the desire to follow His will.
Spiritual disciplines should not be....
Impossible or unrealistic. They should not be used as a benchmark to judge other people spiritual maturity. And they should not be used as an outward way to cover up inward sin.
Be sure to spend time focusing on what disciplines you already have in place in your life and how you can improve those practices. Reach out to God and ask Him what discipline you are missing and be open to the changes He will make in your life.