I introduced the Hebrews series with an overview of the epistle.
We took a look at the background to the book, what we know about the people to whom the letter was written, and spent some time considering what the parallels are in our own lives.
Please leave a comment with your own thoughts, or post a question.
“Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Heb 13.20-21
Growth is about consistency. Whether in savings, health or relationships. The same is true of prayer. The depth of our relationship with God is as much dependant on consistency as any other factor. Few would argue with that.
The big question is, if we develop the consistency will we lose the spontaneity?
Structure for Spontaneity
The short answer is to remember that developing a routine does not substitute the substance. Spontaneity is not enhanced by inconsistency. Spontaneity is enhanced by consistency.
The regularity of our routines frees up our hearts and minds to be spontaneous and intimate with God because it takes the effort out of decision-making. Once we have decided we are going to pray at a certain time in a certain place we are not thinking about the decision. We are set free to focus on God.
Two years ago I ‘woke up’ to the realisation that I was less close to God than I had been. My prayer-life was inconsistent, and I was moving into shallower spiritual waters. Not what I wanted. Not what was healthy.
I made a decision that changed everything.
Penny and the Park
My wife Penny leaves for work at 6.45 in the morning four days a week. On those days she drives past a park. The entrance to the park is a 30-45 minute walk to my house, depending on the route taken.
For the last two years, I have donned my walking boots, jumped in the car with Penny, and jumped out again when she pulls over in the layby beside Cassiobury Park.
I walk through the park come rain, shine, snow or fog. Once in the park, I am in a place where I pray. I know why I am there. I am not deciding where to pray and when. That part is done and dusted. Now, all I have to do is decide to start praying.
Consistency and Intimacy
Some may object that this method takes away the spontaneity of prayer. My experience is the opposite. Consistency maketh intimacy. The more often I talk to God the closer I feel.
Imagine I spoke to my wife one day a week. Not good. We don’t talk the same amount every day, but we speak every day unless illness or travel gets in the way. Even then…..
Jesus and Daniel
Jesus modelled consistency in his prayer life:
“Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” Luke 5.16
We don’t know what time he prayed (although Mark 1.35is recorded for a reason). And we don’t know how often he went back to the same ‘lonely’ places (although see Luke 22.39).
I imagine it like this. Jesus is travelling, preaching and teaching. He knows he needs to pray. He sees a ‘lonely’ place and says, “Excellent, that’s my prayer spot for today.”
Daniel sets a similar example:
“Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.” (Daniel 6:10 NIV11)
We Christians sometimes treat ourselves as if we don’t need ‘normal’ disciplines to grow. I have news. We benefit from disciplne. Treat yourself like a normal human and add some consistency to your prayer-life.
Make it your own. Don’t do what others do just because it works for them. Remember that the point is to spend time with God, not to maintain consistency. Consistency is the tool. Growth is the goal. Intimacy is the vision.
What do you do? What suggestions do you have? What questions come to your mind about the connection between consistency and intimacy?
Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best, when we learn in community.
I hope you have a wonderful week of quality quiet times.
What spiritual goals do you have for the year ahead? I am writing this in the first week of January. Over the past few days, I’ve done a thorough review of last year and created some goals for 2018.
“If you aim at nothing you are sure to hit it”. But, when it comes to spiritual goals it can be tricky to know how to aim, let alone what to aim at.
Spirituality, and growing in it, is about character, integrity and relationship. As such, it can be tough teasing out specific goals that don’t become ‘rules’. The actions endanger the relationship or the substance of the goal. What’s the answer? Firstly, we need to remember the point.
What is the point of a goal? The goal is never the thing. The goal is a tool. A means. A method. The point is God. Or Jesus.
Is this what lies behind Paul’s desire expressed in Philippians?
[callout]“I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:10–11 NIV11)[/callout]
If the point is to be more like Jesus, how do we get there?
All healthy aims need a strategy. Here are four steps for developing a sound strategy for spiritual growth.
Aspiration. Clarify your aspiration. This is not the ‘goal’. Goals change, but aspirations remain. We’ll never achieve full Christ-likeness in this life, thus we aim to grow, not arrive. Examples of aspirations would be to have the compassion of Christ, the courage of Christ, the faith of Christ. Which particular aspiration is right for you, right now, at this point in your life?
One. Find the one tool that will move you in the right direction. That tool becomes the focus of your goal. It could be the Bible, prayer, friends, books etc. Choose only one. Life has enough complexity already.
Action. Now we have an aspiration and a tool we need an action. Make it simple. Include a verb, and make it daily if possible. The action is not the point, but it will move you in the right direction.
Goal. Your goal is to execute your action connected with your tool in pursuit of your aspiration. What is your goal?
My Aspiration: To be like Christ in that he found spiritual food, fuel, and faith from God’s Word. Last year saw significant growth in my prayer life. My Bible focus was OK, but only OK. Not where I think it could be, nor where I want it to be.
My One Tool: The Bible!
My Action: To spend the first 30 minutes of my day in Bible study before anything else (other than ablutions, a cup of tea and a five-minute gratitude journal).
My Goal: To do this every day for 90 days from January first (four days ticked off so far as of 4 Jan 2018).
Knowing your motivations is vital to maintaining growth. You will get tired at some point and tempted to give up. Here are mine:
To feel close to God and provide me with prayer fuel
To feel spiritually fed and focussed at the start of the day
To have integrity as I teach other people
Write your aspiration, tool, action and goal down. Put them somewhere you will see them. I have three ways of staying connected with mine.
A daily reminder in OmniFocus
A tick-list in my Full Focus Planner
A reminder in the Coach.me app.
If I forget to look in one place, the others should catch my attention!
Christians follow Jesus. We think he is amazing. He is our inspiration. Therefore we are aspirational people. God does some of the growing of us whether we plan for it or not. But what better way to honour God’s hopes for our growth, than to make plans in that direction.
What is your greatest aspiration for the year ahead? What ideas have I missed? Let me know your own goals, and feel free to comment on mine.
Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best when we learn in community.