Do you ever feel when on holiday that you drift in life and are tempted to let go of Bible readings and spending time with the Lord each day? I do. Lockdown can also be like that. One medical advisor mentioned that structures including simple things like making your bed in the morning, are important in taking control of the day. Likewise, there are spiritual disciplines to be practised to keep us in good shape.
Richard Foster in ‘Celebration of Disciplines’ believes that the classical spiritual disciplines – meditation, prayer, study, simplicity, solitude, submission, service, confession, worship, guidance, suffering and celebration – can continue to promote a deep inner life and infuse it with overwhelming joy. We will overview some of these disciplines from a ministry perspective.
Bible perspective – Whoever heeds discipline shows the way to life, Proverbs 10:17
The living Word – ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ Matt 4:4
- The evangelist Billy Graham in his preaching would often state “The Word of God says….” Although you may not use those words, do you have the same conviction of the Bible being God’s truth?
- Don’t substitute sermon preparation for your daily time with the Lord however tempting that may be. If you don’t receive personally from the Lord and keep your passion alive, then you are unlikely to refresh your people with God’s presence.
- If you are going through a dry time use devotional aids or try a different Bible translation.
- One writer creatively put it this way, “In prayer we talk to God, and in the study of the Bible God talks to us – and you had better let God do most of the talking”.
Prayer – Madam Guyon: ‘reading scripture is a way into prayer’
- Often in church meetings including prayer meetings, we spend much time talking about prayer needs and spend little time praying. That is wrong.
- When I began ministry as a pastor, we opened our church leadership meetings with a brief prayer and then talked for about two hours doing church related business. However, towards the end of the meeting we were always running short of time, so we would close the meeting with about 5 to 10 minutes of prayer. That is wrong. In my next church, leadership modelled to me that it is best to initially spend a lengthy time in prayer and then do church business. I was surprised how effective that was and how quickly we managed church affairs. That is a good practice including praying throughout the meeting as matters arose.
- There is room to pray written or learned prayers like Jesus taught us in the ‘Lord’s prayer’ and to read biographies of the praying saints over the ages. This brings great inspiration.
- Don’t forget the importance of fasting in prayer. Jesus did it and likewise encourages us to do it.
- Solitude – ‘When I have sufficient “slowing-down time” alone, I find that my activity is marked by a deep, loving communion with God.’ Peter Scazzero
- Jesus often went into a lonely place to pray, Mark 1:35. What an example to follow.
- The biggest distractions to solitude come through having an overactive mind, using social media platforms and overwork. I can relate to all of these. To remain focused in ministry I try and eliminate or reduce the influence of some of these distractions. For example, I may have a media fast where I will not look at emails and social media. People sometimes pride themselves in multitasking, but that pushes God and others out into the fringes.
- On the other hand, the many children of Susanna Wesley knew that when their mother was sitting down in the kitchen with her apron over her head, that meant she was praying and was not to be disturbed. Brother Lawrence also developed the art of solitude while working in a busy kitchen.
Worship – ‘the pure loving gaze that finds God everywhere’, Brother Lawrence
- King David was a worshipper and modelled to others his love for God. How are you doing? R. A. Torrey was a very famous Bible teacher and evangelist in his time. On holiday with his family they visited a small church where the pastor was a poor speaker. His son was surprised how his father’s eyes were riveted on the pastor, so his son quizzed him about that afterwards. “Reuben, I attend church to worship God – not just to hear the preacher. Whoever is speaking, if your heart is receptive, you shall receive. Even some train of thought may be started which will help you.” We must never lose our hunger for more of God.
- Try not to become rigidly set to certain forms of worship styles. Growing up in a conservative worship environment it was a challenge to express my love to God through the raising of hands and even dance like David did. Breaking through those barriers however brought about a new freedom of expression of my love for Jesus.
- Attitude of heart is more important than the outward form. Draw upon others to give a lead in worship if they are particularly gifted in that area.
Service ‘he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet’. John 13:5
- We all agree that leadership should have a servant heart, but what lowly jobs can you take on to demonstrate that? Serve people coffee? Empty the waste paper bins? Go the extra mile when feeling over tired? Work with others in building repairs and painting? Work in unseen menial jobs? Remember, actions count larger than words.
- ‘Good relationships’ are the basis of effective ministry’. Don’t come into your environment as the expert, but as a humble servant of the Lord. An experienced doctor I know arrived in a developing country recently and when talking to other local doctors asked for their help as they knew more about tropical diseases than he did. That won them over.
Celebration of Discipline – Richard Foster
The Cost of Discipleship – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Emotionally Healthy Spirituality – Peter Scazzero
Developing Intimacy with God – An 8 week prayer guide based on Ignatius ‘Spiritual Exercise’