Daily Archives: Sunday, 7 February, 2010

Spiritual Practices 1 — Introduction

We’re going off-lectionary for a few weeks; our Lenten, and pre-Lenten, focus is on spiritual practices or spiritual disciplines. Our home groups will be looking at some chapters in Richard Foster’s classic Celebration of Discipline, and the series will aim to help in their study of that book.

So let’s begin…

As we listen for the Word of God,
let us pray:
Christ, in your power and wisdom,
you take what is nothing
and show that God is there.
Give us the desire to know you
in the riches of your poverty,
that we may rise with you,
the source of eternal life
now and for ever. Amen.

Psalm 1
Matthew 5.1-12

What are spiritual practices?

For the next few weeks, we’ll be talking about spiritual practices, or as Richard Foster calls them, spiritual disciplines. What is a spiritual practice? It’s  something like prayer, seeking God’s will, and worship. It’s something we do intentionally to give us space to keep company with Jesus and learn to know him better. If that sounds too spiritual for you, or too religious, think of the spiritual practices this way: they are ways of helping us to be human. And if that’s too airy-fairy for you, let’s put it this way: spiritual practices help us to get to age 70 or 50 or 30 without succumbing to crippling cynicism or to terminal grumpiness.

Spiritual practices are not a set of regulations. They are practices that allow us to see life in a new way, in God’s way.

We’re going to look at some of these practices as we move through Lent, to prepare ourselves to celebrate the victory of Jesus over death at Easter time. We’re in good company here. The very earliest Christians valued spiritual disciplines. In Acts chapter 2 we read,

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

The early believers in Jesus ‘devoted themselves’ to things that gave space in their lives for Jesus to be present to them: the apostles’ teaching about Jesus, fellowship with other Christians, Holy Communion and set times for prayer.

Perhaps you can see that many of us have already taken on some spiritual practices or disciplines. If you come to church in an intentional and regular way, you have fellowship with other Christians. If you listen to teaching about Jesus, if you come for Communion, if you pray regularly, you are already doing some spiritual practices, practices that help you to keep company with Jesus. Practices that help us to become more the people he wants us to be, and in fact, more the people we want to be—more compassionate, more faithful, more hopeful people.

Psalm 1 talks about choosing to walk in the way the way of the Lord, and proclaims that a person who chooses God’s way is happy. These people

are like trees
planted by streams of water,
which yield their fruit in its season,
and their leaves do not wither.

When you’re out driving and the country is dry, you can see where the creeks run. Its greener there, there’s a line of shrubs and trees whose roots have found water deep down in the earth. That’s what this psalm is saying. Be a person whose life is grounded in God. Continue reading

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