One of Bay Park’s goals for 2017 is Deeper Together. The goal is rooted in our mission of “preparing fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.” There’s no way to be a growing follower of Christ, of going deeper spiritually, without partaking of the God given spiritual disciplines. Soul Food is a 5 week series exploring how we can go deeper together into God’s grace by the walking the timeless paths he has placed before us. Your soul and mine is in need of spiritual feeding so welcome aboard this exciting journey of faith, hope and love!
Celebration of Discipline – The Path to Spiritual Growth by Richard J. Foster
Habits of Grace – Enjoying Jesus through Spiritual Disciplines by David Mathis
to be part of the conversation
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Soul Food #8 // One Sentence Prayers //
Good morning and welcome to the week of unceasing prayer that is ahead!
One of the most helpful strategies for me when it comes to this idea of prayer permeating my entire day is what I like to call “one sentence prayers.” This strategy has been called many things by many people, but in short it is a super brief prayer you can say (or think) in a matter of seconds.
Often we’re tempted to think the longer we pray about a certain request, the more effective the prayer. That’s not the model Jesus left behind:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day 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 evil” (Matthew 6:9-13).
Notice something? Jesus’ famous “Lord’s Prayer” is actually just a series of one sentence prayers. Sure, they all go together to create this beautiful passage of Scripture (which, by the way, would be a good one to memorize!!) but Jesus doesn’t wax eloquent about these important prayers! He knows his Father in heaven hears.
How about thinking of a one sentence prayer that you can pray multiple times throughout the day? Maybe there’s something burdening your heart today. Turn it into a brief request. Or maybe there is something for which you can praise God.
If you’re really stuck, you can always steal one of Jesus’ one sentence prayers. I think he’d be OK with that.
The goal is not to count how many times you remember to pray it today, the goal is to turn your gaze to God as much as possible. To remind yourself that even just few words in His presence are more effective than a prayerless day.
Soul Food #9 // Written Prayers //
There are many different spiritual disciplines (methods of “drawing near”) we simply do not have time to discuss. One we nearly talked about was journalling. Though it is not found directly in Scripture, it is a beneficial practice. One strategy many find helpful when it comes to journalling is writing the entry addressed to God. Or, as I like to to call it, “a letter to God.”
The very fact that God revealed himself through Scripture—through a book!—shows us the power of the written word. Many of the Psalms are actually written prayers to God. Look at these words of David, who “journalled” quite often in the form of psalms/poetry:
“In you, Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness. Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me.
Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
Keep me free from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge. Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, Lord, my faithful God” (Psalm 31:1-5).
Look at the way he addresses God and then pours out his heart! This is something we can do as well. Some of us are verbal communicators/processors, but for those of us who can articulate ourselves better in writing . . . this could change your prayer life!
Now, this may not seem like a helpful suggestion for “prayer permeating your every day.” But think about how often you send text messages throughout the day? What if you made a habit of “texting” God? Create a document in your smart phone’s “notepad” or carry around a little scribble pad, and try to write a brief, written prayer to God a few times throughout the day.
You are not allowed to be eloquent or profound, else you’ll simply stare at a blank page. Just be honest!
Soul Food #10 // Confession //
Confession is at the very heart of the Christian faith. Confession (or more precisely repentance) is the turning point between unbelief and belief (Acts 2:38, 3:19), as well as the pathway for ongoing communion with God (1 John 1:9).
Yesterday my (Paul’s) daily reading landed me in Lamentations 3. Verses 39-42 in particular caught my attention and led me to a time of meditation:
“Why should we, mere humans, complain when we are punished for our sins? Instead, let us test and examine our ways. Let us turn back to the Lord. Let us lift our hearts and hands to God in heaven and say, ‘We have sinned and rebelled.'”
Here are a few thoughts that surfaced as I considered the truth and implications of these verses:
• My life would be greatly enriched if there was less complaining and more confessing. I know not all my hardships or troubles are the result of my sin or disobedience. I’m convinced that God is far more gracious, merciful and patient than I give him credit for. But… I am also deeply selfish, proud, and arrogant. In fact avoiding, denying or deflecting my sinfulness is a huge sin in and of itself.
•I am so blind to my own sin that I need to take time to test and examine my ways. To press into God and invite the Holy Spirit to shine a light in the dark places of my mind, heart and soul… as uncomfortable as that might be.
•Confession is not to be confused with self-condemnation. Quoting a portion of my journal entry for the morning: “A wise person is one who takes time for self-examination instead of self-justification. Who dwells on God’s grace, not on past forgiven sins, but who makes it their habit to test and examine their desires, motives, attitudes and actions in the light of God’s word and who is open to course correction and expressions of deep remorse.
•Prayer isn’t just for requests, prayer is an opportunity and invitation to confession – to test and examine our ways. Like soap for the hands is prayerful confession for our souls. David himself prayed – “Search me O Lord and see if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139).
Needless to say, prayer this morning was surprisingly personal, meaningful and needed… it was good for my soul!!
There’s still lots more observations to be made from Lamentations 3:39-42. For this week (tonight?) I invite you to:
1. Take some time and meditate on the passages with pen in hand or fingers on the keyboard. Let us know what you discover. There’s still lots more in the verses to be discovered and digested!
2. Take some time this evening to lift your heart and hands to heaven in prayerful confession. Our souls long for the grace that comes with forgiveness. Jesus is willing and waiting to forgive and renew you.