December 9, 2010

Additional Disciplines, For When You've Prayed Enough

A great suggestion was given to me on Tuesday after I posted my last blog. Pastor John, from the other West End Baptist thought that I ought to post some of the many non-prayer type disciplines. Which I shall now do.

When I think of spiritual disciplines I tend to think first of the prayer type ones that I posted. Which is an error on my part. It probably shows that I am beginning to limit my thinking about how to be spiritual much in the same way many of us have limited our thinking of worship to mean music. Like music is part of worship, prayer is part of the spiritual disciplines not the other way around.

And let's be blatantly honest, sometimes praying for more than a few minutes is near impossible. And for some people 'sometimes', really is 'most of the time'. I know there have been seasons in my life when trying to have long periods of sustained prayer only achieves going to bed early, or getting in an afternoon nap. Sometimes praying makes me sleepy! And the quiet spiritual disciplines I posted on Tuesday and last Thursday are far worse offenders than even so called 'regular prayer time'.

So does that mean if I can't sit in front of a candle for 45 minutes in quiet reflection I cannot participate in the spiritual disciplines? Thankfully the answer is no. God is remarkably bigger than that. And just like he made the type of person who can absorb biblical knowledge, the person who can sit in reflective prayer for hours on end, and the person who becomes deeply moved through music, he made people who can't sit still, don't want to read, hate to sing, and fall asleep during prayer.

Being that person doesn't mean you are subjugated to inferior Christian statues. It means God made you to connect and worship him differently than I have outlined thus far. When I was a teen in youth group, I hated going to youth rallies. I thought all the people who teared up, raised their hands and just fell into some odd worship euphoria as soon as the first G chord was played were odd. But then one rally I noticed that a lot of people in the room were like that and maybe I was the one who is odd.

As it turns out, neither are true. I just happen to be a person who tends not to connect to God through music, instead I connect through study and reflection. You might not connect to God through study and reflection instead you might connect to God through;

1. Rule of Life- Rules for life come from monastery traditions. Saint Benedict is perhaps the father of this method. His full rules of life cover a lot and can be quite overwhelming if you started there. There is a 'for beginners' St Benedict rule but even that is pretty hefty. A more simple rule could look like this;
a) First thing in the morning, dedicate the day to the glory of God
b) Confess my sins before bed
c)Worship the God alone and with others
d) Don't hold a grudge
e) Eat sensibly
f) Pray for others
g) Get a mentor, than spend time with them
h) Try to direct my wandering thoughts to God

2. Rest- If you find yourself tired, try to sort out if you are physically tired or spiritual tired. If you are physically tired; take a nap, read, exercise, go to bed early. If you are spiritually tried; sleep, listen to music, go on a retreat, try a centering prayer. Do this discipline twice a week, once for physical tiredness and once for spiritual tiredness.

3. Unplugging- Take a day or week where you take no e-mails. Let people know you will not be responding to e-mails but that you will take phone calls or meet with people.

4. Care of God's Creation- We are stewards of the earth. In that light become aware of litter in places that you live and work. Take some time and clean up the neighborhood, either by yourself or by organizing volunteers.

5. Compassion- Write up a list of people who's services you use (teacher, doctors, caretakers, pastors) and draw up a known needs list of those people. See if there is anything God is calling you to do about those needs.

6. Justice- Have a group meet for coffee each morning to look through the paper. Instead of just talking about the bad news in the paper pray for peace and justice; than look to see how (note it's a how not an if) God is calling you to act.

There you have it. Six additional spiritual disciplines, candle free! I hope that some of these may have surprised you. Like I said before, it is easy to equate spirituality with stillness and prayer, or business and worship. But how often do we equate getting closer to God by picking up trash? I hope these disciplines may stretch your idea of how you can grow your relationship with God.
***All disciplines adapted from Spiritual Disciplines Handbook written by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun ***