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Practicing Spiritual Disciplines

During the Tune My Heart series, we’re looking at various spiritual disciplines or practices that can help us live in and enjoy God’s grace. Each week we will post ideas about how you can practice the disciplines we talk about that week. Our hope is that you would be freed, inspired, and encouraged to engage in at least one practice as an opportunity for God to tune your heart to sing His grace.

Slowing

The practice of slowing involves cultivating patience by deliberately choosing to place ourselves in positions and situations where we simply have to wait. Practicing slowing helps us to ruthlessly eliminate hurry from our lives, allowing us to have the headspace and time to hear from God, to be present with and love others, and to experience the rest that comes from following Jesus.

Ways to Practice Slowing:

• Drive in the slow lane of traffic for a day, week, or month.
• Choose the longest checkout line at the store. Allow people who seemed rushed to go ahead of you.
• Pay attention to how quickly you eat. Slow down and enjoy your food and those you might be sharing it with.
• Join us on a Day in Silence.

Scripture

Sometimes we need something to help us tune our hearts to God. One of the most powerful tools that God gives us to help our hearts tune and to learn to hear his voice is Scripture, his written word.

Ways to Practice Hearing the voice of God through Scripture:

• Read one chapter of John each day.
• Read the venite daily prayers on this site, updated every morning.

Prayer

Prayer is about relationship. The goal of prayer is an intimate relationship with God. Therefore, in prayer we must be authentic and honest as well as present. The simple prayer of the heart helps us be both honest and present in our prayers by challenging us to be aware of what is actually on our hearts and to be aware of what is actually going on within us when as pray, and then talking with God about what is actually on our hearts and what is actually going on within us as we pray.

Ways to Practice Simple Prayers of the Heart:

• Establish a consistent time, place, and pattern of prayer

Time: Pray at the same time every day. What time of day are you at your best? Lock that time in for consistent prayer.
Place: Find or set up a place that supports your efforts in prayer – a place that is solitary, quiet, and helps you focus.
Pattern: Establish a consistent pattern of prayer. Start by practicing slowing – allow your mind to calm down, be still, and collect your thoughts. Then begin to pray a simple prayer of the heart. Pray for the same amount of time each day. I’m starting with 5 minutes – this might feel ridiculously short, but it’s better to establish a short time than attempt a longer one and quickly give it up as impractical. If you’re human, at some point you’re going to get bored with your pattern. Don’t worry, this is totally normal. When that happens, don’t give in to the temptation to mess with your pattern: don’t negotiate with yourself skipping one day a thinking you’ll pray 10 minutes the next to “make up” the time. You’ll soon find yourself at the end of the week with 25+ minutes of prayer to “make up” and you’ll eventually give up this practice because it’s impractical. If you skip a day, don’t waste time feeling guilty about it or trying to negotiate with yourself, simply go back to 5 minutes the next day. You’re learning to establish a rhythm of prayer. It’s going to take time; you’re not going to be perfect at it. That’s why we practice!

• Short prayers throughout the day

I’m using two different phrases as short prayers that I can easily integrate into my day: “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me,” and “I love you, too.” The purpose of these short phrases is twofold: it helps me eliminate the distraction of trying to find the right words to say, and it helps me be much more present to God throughout the day. I use these two phrases to invite God into the best and worst parts of my day. When I fail, I ask for mercy. When I notice He is pointing out His love for me, I respond by telling Him “I love you, too.” This is a simple, but profound practice.

Confession

The act of confession and repentance brings us back to the reality that God is gracious and we are still in need of his grace. It reminds us that he has been and will continue to be good to us. It reminds us that he runs towards us. It reminds us that he designed us for freedom. The punishment for sin is taken away when we place our faith in Jesus, the power of sin is removed at confession!

No one who follows Jesus and knows him would say that if we were to die today and had one overlooked and unconfessed sin in our life that we would be prevented from going to heaven. In fact, I think that mindset (confess in order to be forgiven) actually perpetuates a works based idea of salvation: salvation that we earn or merit from God, instead of salvation being a gift of God’s grace. We do not confess our sins to gain salvation. No, Jesus paid it all and our faith in him is what saves…not our ability to recognize and recount all the sins that we commit. You can read Ryan’s full blog post on confession, here.

Ways to Practice Confession:

• Confess

Pretty simple. Find someone you are close with or someone you can trust — a close friend, a mentor, a family member, one of the pastors — and find the freedom Jesus is offering you by confessing what is squeezing the life out of your heart.

• Prayer of Examen

Ryan mentioned a prayer that Ignatius of Loyola developed called the Prayer of Examen. It is a way to prayerfully reflect on one’s day; to intentionally pause and look for the fingerprints of God, to realign oneself with the reality that God is present, to confess and repent, and to seek to live in the fullness that God created us for. Here is a great pdf that will guide you through the Prayer of Examen. We hope it’s helpful to you as you explore confession, repentance, and as you learn to live under the waterfall of grace.

Spiritual Friendship

Spiritual Friendship are intentional relationships that help you practice following the way of Jesus.
They are relationships where the focus & goal is to hear & respond to God.
Spiritual Friends ask these two questions: Do I follow Jesus more because of my friendship with you? and Do you follow Jesus more because of your friendship with me?

Ways to Practice Spiritual Friendship:

Spiritual friends Practice & Play together.
Practice short-term experiments of following the way of Jesus together:

• Read the words of Jesus every day for a week and text them to each other.
• Agree to not consume for a week but instead create something together.
• Express love 7 times each day to your spouse, your kids, your parents.
• Choose to not eat a meal alone, but eat together for 7 days.

Creative Expression

Intrinsic to our humanity is the ability and drive to create. We are all created in the image of a Creator God who is Himself creative. We are all creative. There are many ways this creativity manifests itself, one being through the arts. Throughout the Bible and throughout history, God’s people have used art to glorify and worship God. The arts can reveal many truths about God, and about our spiritual growth. The creation of art as a form of prayer offers a vehicle for discovery for each of us—a discovery of who we are, who God is, and who He is calling us to be.

Ways to Practice Creative Expression:

Sub-Practices:

•Media Abstention

Part of waking up, reaccessing, and redeveloping our creativity involves boredom. Studies show that creativity is sparked, developed, and nurtured though times of being bored. This is a problem for us today because we are drowning in instantly accessible media that prevents us from ever being bored and stifles our creativity. The idea of a media abstention is to cut out certain forms of media from your life for a limited period of time (a week, two weeks, a month) as a time to “detox”. Then, add portions of media back into your life on your own terms.

•Get around art and people who make it

If your sense of creativity is limp and lifeless, you can help resuscitate is by getting around art and the people who make it. Interacting with and learning more about art helps you appreciate it more, and can inspire you towards something you might want to try.

Hands-on Practice:

•Art as Prayer

Using art as a form of prayer gives God other ways to speak to us, while providing us with other ways to respond. In order for this to be a meaningful practice for most of us, we need to approach it in the same vein as we approach simple prayers of the heart (read above). That is to say, in order to fully be ourselves before God in this practice, we need the freedom of being able to separate the act and process of creation from any final product. Create art as a prayer to God for the sheer joy of doing it, rather than for any final product. Don’t worry about the final product, focus on the creative process as an experience and form of communication with God. Create out of the freedom and intimacy of knowing you are creating for God as a form of prayer, not for other people.

“Just as prayer is our response to God’s invitation to a deeper relationship, so the creative process begins with God’s own creative desires issuing an invitation to us to respond with our creative expression as prayer.
The creative process and art-making, with intention and awareness of God’s invitation and work within us, becomes the process of prayer itself. It is a process of surrender and reception, of letting go and welcoming newness.
It is a process of dialogue as we reach out to communicate with God and open ourselves to God’s communication with us through image and symbol, gesture and sound.”
-Dr. Catherine Valters Paintner

What is something you can do to engage your creativity as a form of prayer to God?
Try something! As Miss Frizzle often says, “Take chances! Make mistakes! Get Messy!”
Have an adventure! Play! Experiment! Create!

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