LOOK UP: CONNECT WITH GOD

Spiritual practices are the place where we encounter God as we relate to The Father like Jesus did, in order to be continually transformed into the likeness of Jesus and hear the plans God has for us and our wingspan.


Spiritual practices do not bring salvation, but they are practices that saved people do.

PRAYER

Jesus was in the habit of praying often (Luke 5:16). Over 25 times the Gospel writers record Jesus praying. Jesus prayed with others, but he routinely talked to The Father by himself. He made time to talk with the Father in the beginning of the day, sometimes throughout the evening, and often when the pressures of life were mounting. Instead of seeing prayer as an inconvenience, he found the time and space to make it essential. In John 5:19 we read these words from Jesus, “Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does”‬‬. Jesus talked to the Father in prayer to know what to do for each day and season of his life. He sought this direction not because he was divine, but because he modeled for us healthy relationship with the Father as a human. 


A follower of Jesus asks Jesus to teach them to pray. His response is found in what we traditionally call the Lord’s Prayer. Although committing this prayer to memory can be helpful, the point is not to recite it. Each line is an invitation to a relationship with the Father that transforms our perspective on each day and every situation we face.


“This, then, is how you should pray: “ ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. ’ For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” Matthew‬ ‭6:9-14


Follow Jesus instructions on how to talk to The Father, “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:6


Take Action: Pick a time of the day, and place where you can be alone and practice talking to the Father.

Rhythm of renewal

Think of this next section as Prayer Part 2. In Jesus’ prayer He teaches us to ask God for forgiveness of our sins (our debts) and to help us from sinning in the future. This means we are invited to talk to God about sin as often as we are asking for daily bread. Jesus doesn't lead us in this practice for the sake of guilt, but rather for transformation to Christ-centered wholeness. Each day we have the opportunity for renewal to be more like Jesus. (Read James 4:5-10 for the biblical precedent for this practice.)

  • Humility - We can’t become more like Jesus if we deny or ignore that we have sin at work in our lives. Humble yourself before God and ask, “Holy Spirit, what have I done or not done (sin) that grieves you?” Allow time and space for God to kindly reveal an answer. Listen without defending yourself and see without rationalizing your actions. Name aloud whatever God reveals to you— this is your confession to God.
  • Repentance - Repent means to turn away from something. Jesus calls us to repent from our sins. Sin is the decision we make or action we choose that is based on a lie we have believed. Take a moment and reflect on what lie your sin (stick with the specific sin God has revealed to you) is based on. Identifying the lie and turning away from it is what the Bible refers to as “resisting the devil”. James 4:7 tells us that he will flee when we do this.
  • Belief - The rhythm of renewal does not end with resisting. We turn away from lies to embrace God’s truth. In light of the lie you identified, what does God say? Replace the lie with a scripture that conveys a specific truth. Choose to trust what God says.
  • Forgiveness - God is faithful to forgive us and make us more like Jesus as we engage in this rhythm (1 John 1:9). This energizes and motivates us to continue in relationship with God and pursue his plans for our lives.

We have provided a picture [see left] of this process to help you visualize it as a rhythm that continues.

SILENCE & Solitude

Silence and solitude aren’t words that typically bring excitement. They may actually sound a bit lonely and you might have a tendency to resist them. When it comes to spiritual practices, silence and solitude are practices of abstinence, meaning that you are purposefully taking something away from yourself for the purpose of creating space for God to do significant work within you.


Jesus models for us the practice of intentionally withdrawing for silence and solitude with the Father. In Mark 1:35 we see Jesus seeking silence and solitude early in the morning and when he rejoins his friends He has a renewed sense of his purpose and direction for what to do next. In Luke 5:15-16 we see Jesus as his ministry is growing and people are clamoring to be around him. Instead of finding his identity and sense of worth in the people, he withdraws to be with the Father. As you read through the Gospels you see Jesus do this again and again. It is important to recognize that Jesus modeled for us a way to silence the noise and distractions around us in order to see and hear what the Father has for us. These practices are particularly significant today when we can surround ourselves with noise and distractions 24 hours a day. 


These practices are not simply a means to have a break. They are a means to create a space where we cling to the Father in the absence of others people and things on which we depend.

 

Take action: Start small. Determine a time and a place where you can be alone and quiet. Communicate to your family or those close to you what you are doing so that they can respect your time away. Begin with a few minutes and work up from there. If you have to have electronic devices with you, turn them to silent or off. Resist the urge to accomplish something or make something happen. Just be present with the Father. Bring a notebook with you and write anything you sense God speaking or revealing to you.


A word of advice- One of the reasons silence and solitude can be difficult is because thoughts, emotions, and temptations may surface that we prefer to ignore. This is not a reason to stop. This is an opportunity to surrender those things to the Father and allow Him to transform us. It is also very easy to become distracted. It is helpful to have a simple phrase to say as a prayer each time your mind wanders. An example you can use, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:10)

STUDY

The spiritual practice of study is not about being a theologian or bible expert. It is not even about being smart or having a lot of knowledge. It is about the firm conviction that God has given us the Bible as a way to communicate his heart and transform our lives, and we consistently place ourselves in the practice of concentrating on his words.


2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 


The Father has plans for you and his very words prepare us for these purposes. Scripture reveals to us what we need to remove in our lives as well as what we need to add to our lives to live an abundant life. 


Jesus modeled for us the necessity to know the words of God from the Bible— his whole life and teachings were shaped by them. Every Gospel writer records Jesus quoting or referencing the Old Testament to explain the nature of God and how that impacts our daily lives. One of the most stricking ways Jesus used scripture was when being tempted by the devil. As a human, Jesus used the words of God to overcome the lies of the devil that tempted him (Matthew 4:4-11) WIthout the words of God to lead us, strengthen us, and protect our minds, we live a defeated Christian life. We cannot ignore the words of God, and in the same breath claim that he does not speak to us. Build your inner life on the words of God.


Take action: Find a Bible that you understand. Put it in a place that you see it everyday. Determine what part of the Bible that you want to read and make an attainable plan to do so. Check out our S.O.A.R page for a template to follow as you study. 


A word of advice - If you are new to studying God’s word it may feel like learning a new language. Don’t learn alone. Invite a friend to learn with you. Ask someone you know that understands God’s words more than you to help guide you. Ask God to reveal himself to you as you read his words. 

FASTING

This is a spiritual practice that is easy to skip right over because you may think you can’t do it or it isn’t for you. In an effort to communicate simply on a practice that seems complex, let’s approach it in Q&A form.


What is fasting?

Fasting is abstaining from food or another activity of your life that may cause you to be distracted from depending on God. 


Why would I fast?

Jesus fasted and He is our model. In His physical weakness, He was strong in the Holy Spirit and the truth of God’s word (Matthew 4:1-11). 


How do I fast?

Let’s answer this in 2 ways, first with motive and then practice.

  • MOTIVE: Jesus is very clear that your motive in fasting is very important. He warns his disciples to not fast to look spiritual or special in front of others, but rather to fast so the Father sees you and rewards you (Matthew 16:16-18). Our motive must be to connect with and receive from the Father in this practice.
  • PRACTICE: In reference to fasting Jesus used the word ‘when’, not if. He assumed his disciples would fast. So follow Jesus at his word and make a plan for ‘when’ you will fast. Fasting does not happen naturally or with good intentions, you need to make a plan and stick to it. Start small, with a meal and then build from there. There isn’t a fasting formula, so be curious and explore possibilities. It is very important that you fill your absence of physical eating with spiritual food of prayer, worship, and reading God’s word. You will experience hunger, and potentially get hangry (when you are so hungry you get cranky). This is a reminder that you rely on food (or whatever you are fasting from) for comfort and sustenance more than you depend on God. Fasting flips the table on our source of dependence and places us in a position where we draw near to the Father. 


**If you have a physical condition that you think would be affected by fasting, please seek medical advice from your doctor. 


LOOK out: connect with others

Spiritual practices help us connect in relationship with God and they also help us build healthy God-honoring relationships with other people. The following spiritual practices guide us in looking out and loving others well.

confession

The Bible encourages us to confess our sins to each other and pray for each other so that we may be healed (James 5:16) This couldn’t be a more countercultural exhortation for our relationships! However, this is how God wants us to relate with other Christians, for our benefit! In the Christian life, we walk in the light of Jesus, not afraid to admit where we are struggling with sin. We don’t take pride in our own righteousness, rather we trust in Jesus’ righteousness and are confident that He is continually renewing us (1 John 1:8). 


Confess to someone you trust. The person you trust should be trustworthy. Ask this person if they would be open to you sharing something personal with them.


Confess face to face. Relationship is essential in confession. You can be seen in your worst moment and still loved.


Confess in order to pray. The person you confess is not meant to be your counselor. But they can point you to Jesus and His grace through prayer.