So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.” John 8:31
We kicked off a new sermon series on Sunday called “Refocus” and we are hoping to encourage one another in our spiritual disciplines. Those who are going through the Red Letter Challenge will be reading and talking about “being” focused on several spiritual disciplines: Bible reading, prayer, fasting, worship, celebrating God with others, and solitude/rest. This week we will be considering what these disciplines look like in our lives right now. I don’t know about you, but I need to periodically assess my spiritual disciplines.
Jonathan and I have been going through Donald Whitney’s “Spiritual Disciplines” book this year. When we read the chapter on “fasting” I realized that I don’t fast nearly as much as I use to and fasted very few times last year. Sometimes we start neglecting spiritual disciplines (even prayer) and we don’t even notice. It is so easy to get out of the habit of reading the Word, worshipping the Lord, sharing the gospel, or even taking a Sabbath of rest.
Often, it is helpful for me to read a book (or a chapter) about a spiritual discipline and try new ways or methods of practicing those spiritual disciplines. For example, sometimes I use the acronym “WAR” to pray and start with worshipping God and the attributes of God. Then I acknowledge my sins and then offer my request to God. Sometimes I use the acronym “ACTS” to pray. ACTS stands for adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication. Sometimes I take the Bible passage I am reading and pray it back to the Lord. At the men’s breakfast this past Saturday, Hopson Boutot (Michael’s son), encouraged us to use the Lord’s prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) as a model for our praying. We start by directing our attention towards God (praying for His name to be glorified and His kingdom and will to be accomplished). Then, we seek God for our daily needs (daily bread), for His forgiveness and to be able to forgive others. Finally, we seek God’s help in avoiding temptations and overcoming the evil schemes of the devil.
We need God’s help in living out the Christian life. We need God’s help in the church to accomplish His purposes. In the gospels, we regularly see Jesus getting away to spend time with His Father in prayer. We need time with God in prayer. A. W. Tozer said, “If a man wants to be used by God, he cannot spend all of his time with people.” Jesus said (John 15:5), “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” We need to abide in Christ and allow Him to bear fruit in our lives.
If you need a little help with your spiritual disciplines, I would suggest Donald Whitney’s “Spiritual Disciplines,” Richard Foster’s “Celebration of Discipline,” Paul Miller’s “A Praying Life,” Ronnie Floyd’s “The Power of Prayer and Fasting,” Tim Keller’s “Prayer,” and maybe my favorite book on prayer is George Muller’s “Delighted in God!” If you would benefit from any of these books or want something on other spiritual disciplines, please let me know and I would be glad to offer some suggestions (of books). May the Lord bless you and your spiritual disciplines and allow you to bear much fruit for His glory!