Spiritual practices and habits
Posted by Anne Witton on Wednesday, October 5, 2022 Under: Reflections
It’s been a really tough couple of years and I realised that I let other things and people take first place in my heart instead of God. It’s been a long and painful process coming back to him fully, but I realised that the only thing that’s going to replace idolatry in my heart is to pursue Jesus with everything I have and delight in him. That’s not always easy. In fact, I’ve found it very hard, but I’m encouraged that it’s not something I need to manufacture for myself. Even the tiniest move we make towards God will be met with overwhelming grace and love.
“[Jesus] does not say, “Whoever comes to me with sufficient contrition,” or “Whoever comes to me feeling bad enough for their sin,” or “Whoever comes to me with redoubled efforts.” He says, “Whoever comes to me I will never cast out.””
(Dane Ortlund, Gentle and Lowly, p.65)
I have deliberately adopted some new practices, and resurrected some old ones, to help me draw close to Jesus and find my joy and peace in him. I hope they give you some helpful ideas too, so here they are in no particular order:
- Put on the armour of God. In the morning I often pray about the day ahead and prepare myself by praying through the armour of God (Eph 6: 10 – 17) and miming putting it on.
- Go to cemeteries. This might seem like a weird one, but the Victorians used to have day trips to cemeteries. Often they are very beautiful and peaceful. They are good places to reflect on our own mortality, lament losses and remember that God is with us in our grief. We can find hope in the fact that death doesn’t get the last word for Christians.
- Encounter God through my senses. We’re embodied beings with numerous different ways of experiencing the world. I’ve found that wearing a particular perfume during my special times with God, exploring the texture of an object, eating a meal with God and savouring the taste, listening to music and letting it move me to worship, or focusing on a particular view or picture can all help me enjoy the fullness of God and the world he’s created.
- Get soaked by the rain. Sometimes it’s fun to get absolutely drenched and it’s a powerful reminder that we can be soaked in God’s presence and in his Spirit.
- 5 mins of silence a day. This is a tough one in our rushed and over-stimulated world, but I’ve found setting aside some time for silence to still my soul really rewarding. I use the free Centering Prayer app to help.
- Fun times with Jesus. I have a list of things that I enjoy and make me feel really alive and these are things that I can intentionally invite Jesus to enjoy with me. Stuff on the list includes:
o Watching a sunrise
o Watching a moonrise
o Swimming in a lake
o Walking up a mountain
o Rowing on a lake
o Visiting cathedrals
o Spending the night in a tent / hut
o Having a campfire on the beach
o Going stargazing
o Going to a castle or abbey
- Journal. I’ve only started doing this this year, but I’ve found it a great way to grow spiritually and work through difficult emotions. I write how I’m feeling, song lyrics, Bible verses, prayers and quotes from books. I also stick in pictures and photos.
- Symbolic gestures. There’s a good biblical precedent for this, not least the commemoration of the last supper with communion. I’m a visual person and I sometimes find it helpful to use symbolism when I’m spending time with God. I have a wooden cross that I sometimes hold when I pray. Maybe I’ll build a tower of stones on the beach when I’m praying that God will build my faith. Sometimes I’ll light a candle when reflecting on Christ as the light of the world, or even write a list of things that I want to repent of and then burn it to symbolise God completely destroying the penalty and power of my sin.
- Read through the Bible in a year. I’ve done this a couple of times and I think it’s a great discipline as it helps me to discover parts of Scripture that aren’t very familiar to me, or perhaps are difficult to understand, rather than just going to my favourite passages all the time. This is my favourite plan.
- YouTube worship videos. I didn’t used to listen to Christian music as it wasn’t that good in the 1990s when I became a believer. Fortunately, there are loads of good songs freely available now. I’ve made a YouTube playlist of my favourites.
- Ukulele and piano worship. I find that singing my worship to God helps to turn my heart towards him and remind me of his promises and why I want to follow him.
- Prayer walk. I find it easiest to pray when I’m walking around outside. Sometimes it’s good to have a plan for a prayer walk and you can find some tips here.
- Creative prayer. There are lots of ways to pray from writing your own Psalm to using an inflatable globe to pray for the world. Check out loads of ideas in my blogs Creative Prayer and 18 More Ideas to Help You Pray.
- Scripture memory. Getting God’s word right inside so that it can encourage and challenge me at any time has been massively helpful. Here are some reasons to memorise Scripture and some apps to help.
- Listen to Christian podcasts. There are some fantastic Christian podcasts out there including interviews, devotionals, Bible teaching, apologetics and cultural engagement. You can discover my 10 favourite Christian podcasts here.
- Retreat days. It’s a good discipline to take a day out every now and again to get away from it all and spend an extended time with Jesus. I try to go once a month. I’ve got some practical tips on having a retreat day and also a map of my favourite retreat locations in the North East.
- Use the Bible Project app. This is a great way to explore Scripture through videos, podcasts and reading.
Some of these are personal to me, but I’d encourage you to make your own list. How do you engage best with God? What helps you to delight in his word? How can you make time to pursue the only one who loves us unconditionally and gives us meaning and purpose? Feel free to share your ideas in the comments.
In : Reflections
Tags: prayer retreat bible silence fun memory worship