Teaching the joy of spiritual practices.
If you are anything like me, you have heard some interesting teaching on the spiritual disciplines. One preacher taught that all Christians had to pray for one hour on their knees every morning to have an acceptable devotional life. To this person, prayer was a transaction — we give God some prayer, and he blesses us. I have since learned that prayer is about spending time with God and letting his presence transform me. It does not center on a particular position, time of day, or duration of prayer. Rather, it is far more profitable to have a rhythm of turning towards God throughout our day. I also heard that a proper fast meant refraining from food and water for 24 hours. It is not advisable to go so long without water and staying hydrated was the norm for fasting in the Bible. I have heard it said from the pulpit that every Christian should strive to read the entire Bible in a year. While this is an admirable goal, I have found much more satisfaction and spiritual growth in slowly and deliberately reading scripture that speaks to my particular situation.
For a long time, I had a negative view of the spiritual disciplines because of how I had been taught. Prayer, meditation, fasting, Bible study, sabbath, and other formational practices were like doctor visits to me. I believed they were necessary for my (spiritual) health, but I would have rather done just about anything else. By the grace of God, I have received better information about the spiritual disciplines. They are now life-giving practices that I look forward to with anticipation. The prophet Jeremiah wrote, “This is what the LORD says: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls’” (Jeremiah 6:16a NIV). God is showing me how to find rest for my soul as I walk those ancient paths.Read More
You may be reading this and feeling overwhelmed by the challenge of teaching young people about the spiritual disciplines. You may be like me and received some inaccurate teaching about sacred practices. The good news is that there are some great resources out there to help you learn how to walk on those ancient paths. With regard to your own understanding of the spiritual disciplines, I would recommend Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth by Richard J. Foster. For how to introduce the disciplines to children, I would recommend Habits of a Child’s Heart: Raising Your Kids with the Spiritual Disciplines by Valerie E. Hess, which is based on Foster’s book. It is never too early to start teaching our children and youth how to cultivate deeper communion with God, and these resources can help you get started.
As those who are discipling our young people, we should teach them about God. More importantly, we should introduce young people to Jesus so they can come to know him for themselves. He is beautiful! He is wonderful! And, in him, we can find rest for our souls.
US Generations Ministry Coordinator