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My granddaughter Jolie started to kindergarten. Her first visit to the school was at an open house tea a few days before the school term. Her mother took her and she met her teacher Ms. Robbins. Jolie still has a problem pronouncing “r.” Wouldn’t you know, she got a super teacher, but when she pronounced her teacher’s name to us she said, “It’s Mrs. Wobbins.”
Beginning school for the first time is full of adventures. Jolie thought she could spend all day at school after the tea. She was eager and ready to go, so no tears fell when she finally walked into the classroom for the first day of school. She trotted to her desk and began filling in a coloring sheet. But that evening, Jolie said to her mother, “School is nice, but I don’t think I’ll go back tomorrow.” Of course she did and now the transition is almost made. It’s always an adjustment from days at home to mandatory school.
Since kiddos through college age are back in school, I thought we adults could revisit the classroom of spiritual disciplines. For the next few weeks we will consider the disciplines and the gracious side effects of deepening our conversations with God. Joy and peace are a gift at our salvation, but expect God assist you to more fully take notice of this joy and peace if you accept this mission of training in the spiritual disciplines.
Personal spiritual training has been shelved by many. We train throughout life—good manners, riding a bicycle, driving a car, and work related instructions—the spiritual disciplines cause us to look into our hearts and that is difficult for many. It’s so much easier to drift through life. But it is not more rewarding.
Richard Foster, a Friend and Quaker, is one of America’s primary writers on the spiritual disciplines. His book “Celebration of Discipline” has sold over a million copies, and although it has been in print for 30 years, it continues to sell well.
Eugene Peterson says that the modern world has for the most part stored away the spiritual disciplines, but that Mr. Foster has rummaged around brought them out of hiding and shows through his writing that they are the way to the abundant life in Christ.
Any tool that brings us closer to the Christ is a call to celebrate. Mr. Foster divides the disciplines into three groups: the inner, the outer, and the corporate. The inward are the ones we practice in a more private setting giving our hearts over to God’s regulation, and they include meditation, fasting, prayer, and study. The outer disciplines are simplicity, solitude, submission and service, and the corporate ones are confession, worship, guidance and celebration.
This week, we will concentrate on the more familiar inner discipline of prayer. Prayer is communication between the created and the Creator. To start our journey, answer these questions about prayer habits: When do you pray? Early morning, at meals, at bedtime, or throughout the day? Maybe your prayer life is a combination of all. Or perhaps prayer is your 9-1-1, an emergency only connection.
Several things can happen during prayer: praise, thanksgiving, praying for others (family, friends, government leaders, etc), confession, asking for forgiveness, and seeking guidance. To further understand personal prayer, think about what you most often say in your prayers. Are they mostly expressions of thanksgiving? Are they most often focused on personal needs?
One of the most familiar prayers in the Bible is the one Jesus taught his disciples to pray, often referred to as the Lord’s Prayer. One of my favorite lines in that prayer is “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). The request is a desire for the perfection, holiness, and goodness of God to be lived out through personal lives in sync with God.
Whether you are in kindergarten prayer or headed toward your doctorate in prayer, pay attention this week to how often you talk to God and the intent of your words. And why not customize that phrase from Jesus’ prayer-teaching: “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven, and Lord, begin with me.”