Spiritual Disciplines #4 – Prayer

I’ve been wrestling with the discipline of prayer this past week. I have to be reminded to pray way too much. I pray when a request is given. I pray when I hear of a need. I pray when nobody else at the dinner table will do it. In fact, most meals I get the honor of praying for the food. I think that is one of the unsaid perks that come along with being the pastor. All of these particular prayers are good and needed, but I’m struggling to call them a discipline.  

 

Our definition of spiritual discipline – Practices that are the guaranteed places of spiritual transformation.   

 

More often than not, my prayers seem to miss the target of a spiritual discipline. Therein lies the reason I’m wrestling with the discipline of prayer. My prayers tend to be a function of duty or responsibility. The spiritual discipline of prayer is much more. Again, let us not beat ourselves up, but let us seek together something more in our prayer lives. I’m seeking along with you. 

 

How do you turn something from a responsibility to a transforming spiritual practice? Prayer needs to move from simple words and thoughts to something more significant.  

 

Richard Rohr said, “ Prayer is not primarily saying words or thinking thoughts. It is, rather, a stance. It’s a way of living in the Presence.” 

 

Prayer is a word that describes a relationship. Disciplines of prayer provide patterns for attending to God throughout the day. They open us to the divine dialogue through the intentional encounter with the Trinity. In Donald Whitney’s work on spiritual disciplines, he compares learning to pray like learning a foreign language. It is clunky and awkward at the beginning, and to become more fluent, you must immerse yourself in the language and practice, practice, practice. This is where the secular definition of discipline is essential: to train or develop by instruction and exercise, especially in self-control. Learning to pray requires training and instruction.  

 

More thoughts to come on prayer. I’d love to hear how each one of you practice praying. What are your methods? How do you pray? Please send me an email with your thoughts.  

 

Jason@casperchurch.com or Jason.Fazel@gmail.com 


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Spiritual Disciplines #3 – Worship

Spiritual Disciplines #3 – Worship

Based on my ability to parent, I’m learning that it is quite challenging to encourage someone to do something they have zero desire to do. I have a cute 6th grader that I’m partially responsible for developing into a contributing member of society. There are days when it is clear that my encouragement is not inspiring him to read, clean his room, or even eventually pay his taxes. He seems to be locked into if it isn’t fun, I’m not interested mentality. I do imagine that he might wake up one morning and do all the things I’ve asked of him with joy and ambition.  

I see a correlation between encouraging my son to clean his room and convincing some of you that you should love to worship.  

Worship is a discipline that will transform you.  I so long for you all to desire to do it. 

The spiritual discipline of worship is such a vulnerable experience. Worship forces us to express in a way that doesn’t feel comfortable. Worship asks us to sing songs that don’t quite fit our personalities. Worship can be a struggle. I have found myself over the years being intentionally distracted or needing to go to the bathroom when the music starts in the church. So I get it. It’s not always easy to worship.  

The following excerpt is from the book I’m using to help shape some of our focus on spiritual disciplines, The Spiritual Discipline Handbook:

The heart of worship is to seek to know and love God in our unique way. Each one of us fulfills some part of the divine image. Each one of us loves and glorifies God in a particular way that no one else can. It should not surprise us then that worship styles and tastes differ: traditional, contemporary, liturgical, charismatic. One style of worship is not better than another. The quality of worship emerges from the heart and its focus. Worship can touch our deepest feelings. But that is not a litmus test for worship. Feelings can come and go. But the joyous Trinity remains forever worthy. Above and before all other good things remain the Pearl of great price, the King of all kings, and Lord of all lords.  

 

Spiritual Exercise

 

  1. Consider the many names of God uses to reveal himself to us. Which of these names identifies where God is in your life now? Talk to God about what this revelation of who he is meant to you.  
  2. Think of the times you have been deeply moved in worship. What was happening in your life at that time? What was going on in worship? Put yourself in places where you most easily connect with God in worship. 
  3. Write a letter or song to God, expressing your love and honor of him.
  4. Come before God with an open and listening ear. Write the question, “What do I value most” at the top of the bulletin on a Sunday morning. Answer the question

 

I’ve attached a  Bible Study to bring the spiritual discipline of Bible Study into the worship realm.  

 

Read Revelation 4–5

 

What is God’s ultimate purpose for men and women? To worship him! The Westminster Catechism puts it this way: The chief end of human beings is “to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”

 

What images come to mind when you think of worship?

 

PERSONAL REFLECTION. Why is worship important? What role does it play in your relationship with God.

 

To truly worship God we must see who he is and realize what he has done. In Revelation 4–5 we enter with the apostle John into the heavenly realms, where we observe the response of those who truly see the Lord. John is writing to believers around A.D. 90–95 during the reign of the emperor Domitian, a time of tremendous persecution. They were living in a world where evil was rampant and apparently all-powerful. However, John’s focus on God in all his glory would have been an apt reminder that evil is not in control. God’s purpose stands; he controls the world’s destiny. The worship pictured in these chapters reorients our thinking too, giving us a vision of God’s character and rule in the world. Read Revelation 4.

 

  1. Imagine all that John experienced in his glimpse into heaven. Describe what he saw, heard and felt.

 

  1. What is the first and primary sight that meets his eyes (vv. 2–3)?

 

What is the significance of this?

 

  1. What do we learn about God’s character from John’s description in this chapter?

 

  1. What response does this evoke from the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders (vv. 6–11)?

 

  1. How does this compare or contrast with your experiences of worshiping God?

 

  1. Read Revelation 5. What characters are involved in 5:1–7, and what is the nature of their activity?

 

  1. Jesus is described both as the “Lion of the tribe of Judah” (5:5) and as “a Lamb looking as if it had been slain” (5:6). What do these names tell us about who Jesus is?

 

  1. In 5:9–10 what do we learn about the results of Christ’s death?

 

  1. Reread 5:8–14, identifying the different beings worshiping the Lamb. What different forms of worship do you see?

 

  1. What does this variety suggest about our attitude toward forms of worship which are very different from what we are accustomed to?

 

  1. Compare your worship with that of Revelation 4 and 5. What are the similarities and differences?

 

In what ways would you like for your worship to be more like what is described here?

 

Considering God’s character as seen in Revelation 4 and 5, spend some time now worshiping him in brief expressions of praise and thanksgiving.

 

This passage has focused on the God we worship, but worship also affects the person worshiping. Read Isaiah 6:1–8. What elements of worship do you find in this passage, and in what ways does Isaiah’s vision of God in his glory affect his own perspective and actions?

 

Sterk, A., & Scazzero, P. (1999). Christian Disciplines: 12 Studies for Individuals or Groups (pp. 18–21). Downers Grove, IL: IVP Connect: An Imprint of InterVarsity Press.


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Spiritual Disciplines #2 – Fasting

Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

Fasting – A fast is the self-denial of normal necessities in order to intentionally attend to God in prayer. Bringing attachments and cravings to the surface opens a place for prayer. This physical awareness of emptiness is the reminder to turn to Jesus, who alone can satisfy.  

Dallas Willard says in his book The Spirit of Disciplines,

 Actually, fasting is one of the more important ways of practicing that self-denial required of everyone who would follow Christ. In fasting, we learn how to suffer happily as we feast on God. Persons well used to fasting as a systematic practice will have a clear and constant sense of their resources in God. And that will help them endure deprivations of all kinds, even to the point of coping with them easily and cheerfully.   

Through self-denial, we begin to recognize what is controlling us. Brian Taylor said, “Self-denial is profoundly contemplative for it works by the process of human subtractions and divine addition.” Denying yourself a meal, and eventually, you will hear the growls of our stomach and the thoughts of your hunger. When those pains come, take a moment to reject the cravings and turn to the Lord and seek spiritual food for nourishment. This difficult act of self-denial can put us into a listening posture to hear God’s voice in our life. Fasting is an opportunity to be satisfied in the soul through spiritual nourishment.  

I’ve been working through a book called The Spiritual Discipline Handbook – Practices That Transform Us, written by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun. Each chapter contains insight, pointers, and exercises within the spiritual disciplines. In the section on fasting, there is an excellent help when entering into the discipline of fasting. The following are a list of exercises in fasting:

 

 

  • To deepen your understanding of how Jesus denied himself and embraced suffering and death for you, practice some fasting during Lent. When the fasting is difficult, share your thoughts and feelings with Jesus. What does Jesus say to you? Tell Jesus what it means to you to share and fellowship with him in his sufferings.

 

 

  • Fast one meal a week. Spend your mealtime in prayer. When you feel hungry, sit with Jesus in the wilderness, and feed on the bread of heaven. Talk to Jesus about what his self-denial means to you. 

 

 

  • For one week, fast from media, sports, shopping, reading, or use of the computer. Dedicate the time you now have to God. What feelings arise in you? What thoughts interrupt your prayer?

 

 

  • Make two lists: one of needs, the other of wants. Ask God to show you where to fast from some of your desires. Offer to God the time you spend hankering after your wants.

 

 

  • Abstain from purchasing morning coffee or daily sodas or evening videos. Offer the money or time to God.  

 

 

  • When facing a trial, decide on a fast that gives you time to seek God’s strength in your journey. 

 


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