As we learn what it means to follow Jesus and how to be more like Him, it can be difficult to know how to put it into practice. It’s usually said that we should read our Bible and pray, but what are some more practical ways to connect with God?
There are effective spiritual disciplines that we can practice that will help us to become the person God has called us to be. The more ways that we connect with Him, the more that we can understand where He is leading us. Sometimes, it can be difficult to hear from God and know how to pursue Him.
Richard Foster gives a great guide on spiritual disciplines in his book, Celebration of Discipline. Let’s take a look at some of the disciplines that he suggests. These help me so much when I feel like I’m in a “spiritual rut.”
We know that we are supposed to pray, but how can we practice prayer? A great way to start is to dedicate a time each day to pray. Grab a journal or turn on some worship music to get focused. If I pray without writing it out, I get distracted, so I usually use a journal to help.
If it’s difficult for you to remember to stop and set aside 30 minutes or so to prayer, set a reminder on your phone and schedule it into your daily activities! It’s okay to schedule prayer. It’s a discipline!
If you need help knowing what to pray about each day, maybe just choose a topic: friends, family, your community, your church, your country, your world…There are so many things that we can pray about! I personally like to start with just telling God about my day and processing life with Him. He speaks so much when we dedicate that time to Him.
These days, fasting sounds old school. Fasting seems like something that was done in the Bible and that shouldn’t be a priority today. But fasting is another discipline that we can learn. Again, we are dedicating our time and needs to God. When we dedicate important parts of our lives to Him, it draws us closer to Him, and He speaks in crazy ways!
Fasting may include many different things. Some people fast from foods, others from social media, and even from certain music. For me, I can’t fast from all foods all day because my blood sugar will get all messed up, but I can fast from some foods or other things that I feel may be keeping me from connecting to God more.
What is something that may be keeping YOU from connecting with God? Think about how you could fast from it.
One of the best experiences that I ever had was a particular time when I was assigned to practice solitude. I was attending a Christian leadership program, and every student was asked to spend five hours of solitude in the middle of the woods. We were on a hiking trip, and each one of us got dropped off at a different place, left in the silence of the woods by ourselves. I didn’t know what to expect, and I was honestly not very excited about it! I couldn’t imagine being confined to a certain spot with one book and one journal for five hours.
Today, I am so happy that I had the opportunity to do that! It was difficult to figure out what to do at first, but as time went on during those five hours, I learned so much about myself and my relationship with God. When you dedicate your time and your focus to God, He doesn’t let that return void.
You may be thinking, “When in the world am I going to find time to have five hours of solitude?” But you don’t have to do five hours! You can do 30 minutes. Give whatever amount you can to dedicate your time and all of your focus to Him. There are always going to be reasons for us to avoid practicing this spiritual discipline, but we should really be carving out time for it regularly.
Practicing the discipline of simplicity means to first focus on the purity of your heart and then live out a lifestyle of simplicity. Without a change of heart and without knowing your identity in Christ, you will really struggle to live the simple lifestyle. Living in simplicity means living without fear and obsession of status.
In our culture, everything revolves around living a certain lifestyle and upholding that lifestyle. Without the certain looks and the certain nice things, we are frowned upon. Jesus asked us to give things up for Him. It’s easy to try to live up to the standards of our culture and forget about the standards of the Bible.
One of the spiritual disciplines that I think we forget about the most is the discipline of celebration. Celebration basically means joy, according to Richard Foster in Celebration of Discipline. Don’t the words “celebration” and “joy” make you smile when you think about them and the things in life associated with them? That’s the kind of feeling in your heart that makes you stronger and energized! Why would we not want to feel this way all of the time? That’s why it’s so important to practice thoughts of joy.
What are some things that you can celebrate right now? A great way to keep track and remind yourself is to write them down. Look at them daily and come back to them when you’re in need of some celebration. In her book, One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp was dedicated to writing out even the tiniest of things that bring her joy, making a list of 1,000.
Ultimately, when it feels like there’s nothing else to celebrate, as Christians, we always have the celebration of what Jesus has done for us and that God is actively present in our lives! If you’re having trouble seeing that, spend time in one of the other spiritual disciplines to give opportunity for God to speak to you in new ways.
To find all of the spiritual disciplines that Richard Foster talks about, check out his book, Celebration of Discipline! I would definitely suggest this book to anyone who is looking to grow spiritually. It is very helpful and gives a great path on how to connect with God in practical ways.