Celebrating Our Heritage: Exploring Historical
Christian Spiritual Practices
1. Center Down
Before we begin today’s spiritual excursion, please take a few moments to breathe! Take three slow, deep breaths, expanding from your abdomen; try not to raise your shoulders. As you inhale, whisper, “We have…” As you exhale, whisper, “…a Hope and a Heritage.” This way of breathing and speaking is known as a “breath prayer.”
2. Slowly read aloud the following Scriptures
(Feel free to pause at any time during your reading to reflect on, thank, praise, or acknowledge God’s stirring in your thoughts and emotions.)
“Stay clear of silly stories that get dressed up as religion. Exercise daily in God—no spiritual flabbiness, please! Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so,
making you fit both today and forever.”
(I Timothy 4:7-8, MSG)
“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, goingto-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for Him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what He wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” (Romans 12:1-2, MSG)
For further exploration:
3. Kingdom Prayer
Loving Father, apart from Jesus, the True Vine, we can do nothing. Thank You for Jesus. Thank You for working in us, giving us the desire and the power to do what please You. Thank You for being patient and long-suffering with us as we grow into the image of Christ. Your love is so amazing! We give You thanks, O Lord, with all our hearts. We will sing Your praises. We bow before Your holy Temple as we worship. We praise Your Name for Your unfailing love and faithfulness, for Your promises are backed by all the honor of Your Name. As soon as we pray, You answer us. You encourage us by giving us strength.
Divine Father, we realize that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit whom You gave to live inside each one of us. We confess that we do not belong to ourselves for You bought us with a high price, so we must honor You with our bodies. As true disciples of Jesus Christ, we will remain faithful to His teachings. We declare that we know the truth, and the truth has set us free. We are strong and immovable. We always work enthusiastically for the Lord for we know that nothing we do for the Lord is ever useless. As we journey in our spiritual walk, we confess that we will mark out a straight path for our feet and we will remain on it. We will not get sidetracked with distractions, but we will keep our feet from following evil. We understand the impact of our influence on others; therefore, we make a decision today to live in such a way that will not cause another believer to stumble and fall. We declare that as the Lord’s sheep, we listen to His voice. We know Him, and therefore, we follow Him. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we take authority over our minds, wills, and emotions because we are surrounded by a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith. Therefore, we strip off every weight that slows us down; especially the sin that easily trips us up. And we declare that we run with endurance the race that You have set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the Champion who initiates and perfects our faith.
Holy Spirit, whenever we become unstable remind us that the Father has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and selfdiscipline.
Holy Spirit, help us to keep our focus and stay committed, always seeking the Kingdom of God above all else and living righteously. Holy Spirit, we ask You to guide our lives so that we won’t do what our sinful nature craves. Give us desires that are opposite of what our sinful nature craves so that we can remain faithful to the calling of God on our lives. Show us how to develop an ear to hear You when You speak the Father’s will to us and help us to be quick to obey. Whenever we are in danger of backsliding into our old ways, help us to remember that we are salt and light to this world. Holy Spirit, today I will commit to developing greater spiritual discipline.
Precious Father, forgive us of our sins. Forgive us for neglecting and rejecting spiritual discipline in our personal lives. Forgive us for straying away and leaving Your paths to follow our own. Forgive us for being foolish and prideful when we have been confronted with rebuke. Forgive us Father, for failing to hide Your Word in our hearts on a regular basis to safeguard ourselves from sinning against You. Lord, forgive me for (list any sins that You have committed).
Holy Spirit, remind us of those we need to forgive and help us to be quick to forgive. As for me, Holy Spirit, bring to my remembrance those
I need to forgive. (Take a moment and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal names or faces of people that You may need to forgive. As He reveals, say aloud, “I forgive name of person(s).” Now, trust the Lord to heal any wounds in Your soul caused by unforgiveness.) Holy Spirit, help us not to yield to temptation but deliver us from the evil one.
Almighty Father, blessed be Your holy Name. You are honored in Judah. Your Name is great in Israel. Jerusalem is where You live and Mount Zion is Your home. Salvation comes from You, the God who sits on the throne and from the Lamb! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and strength belong to You forever and ever! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture References for the Prayer Text: John 15:5, Philippians 2:13, Psalm 138:1-3, I Corinthians 6:19-20,, John 8:31-32, I Corinthians 15:58, Proverbs 4:26-27, Romans 14:13, John 10:27, Hebrews 12:1-2, II Timothy 1:7, Matthew 6:33, Galatians 5:16-17, Isaiah 53:6, Psalm 119:11, Matthew 6:13, Psalm 76:1-2, Revelation 7:10, 12
4. Concepts to Consider
As we begin this journey together in exploring some of the “best practices” of our Christian faith, I think it’s important to note that as followers of Jesus we are the inheritors of a tremendous heritage of spiritual formation practices that stretch back into our early Jewish roots and develop over the long centuries of Christian experience.
We often think of other religions as having more visible and perhaps more ordered ways of living, e.g., observant Jews usually pray three times a day, Muslims five times a day, and Hindus often have regular morning rituals; but, some of the earliest Jesus followers, known as the “Desert Fathers and Mothers” developed a robust “seven times a day I will praise You” (Psalm 119:164) daily pattern that is still in use today among many Christian monastic and neo-monastic communities around the world. It is safe to say that since our beginning, Christians have followed “regular” or “ordered” ways of “doing daily life.” Our “freedom in Christ” doesn’t mean we have the luxury to simply ignore all that has gone before us without running the risk of losing our roots and the wealth of knowledge and wisdom that precedes us. We, as the renowned physicist Isaac Newton said, “stand on the shoulders of giants.”
Unfortunately, a fair number of people in the US who identify as “Highly Religious,” live relatively spiritually untethered lives, and do not consistently follow any form of regular devotional or worship practices beyond weekend service attendance, occasionally praying or reading the Bible (approx. 40%, of which only about 17% say they read the Bible daily and pray, see: Pew Research on Religious Typography, http://bit.ly/Pew2018).
The Bible, of course, sets out many practices or “disciplines” for our benefit. Jesus and His disciples followed the basic Jewish patterns of daily prayer, festival celebration, and Sabbath (Friday sunset to Saturday sunset) observance. Early Christian worship liturgies (which often included both Saturday, “Sabbath” observance AND Sunday, “Lord’s Day” observance), and devotional practice naturally grew out of this same Jewish/Torah-following seedbed.
Jumping forward 1,000 years, John and Charles Wesley in England drew several of their methodical (aka “methodist”) practices from the teachings of the early Eastern Church. In essence, as Wesleyan Christians today, these methods and means are our theological “native language” so, in an attempt to not lose our prima lingua, you are invited to set aside time over the next few weeks to investigate the following “best practices” of our historical faith:
Week 1. Awakening Our Spiritual Appetites (Matthew 5:6)
Week 2. Listening to Scripture (2 Timothy 2:15)
Week 3. Listening to the Saints (Hebrews 12:1)
Week 4. The Power of Prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
Week 5. The Call to Worship (Hebrews 10:25)
Week 6. Entering into Sabbath Rest (Exodus 16:23)
Week 7. Fasting for Spiritual Awakening (Matthew 6:16)
Week 8. Kingdom Examination (2 Corinthians 13:5)
Week 9. Walking in Accountability (Galatians 6:1-5)
Week 10. The Gift of Hospitality (Hebrews 13:2)
Week 11. Ordering Our Days (Psalm 50:23)
5. Reflection Questions
(You are encouraged to record your responses to the following inquiries in some tangible, meaningful way, (i.e., write, draw, create, vlog/ blog, sing, etc.)
- Personal Reflection: How does it make you feel to realize (or be reminded) that we as Christians are the inheritors of a spiritual formation heritage that is not generally practiced to its fullest today? How will you begin to “Take your everyday, ordinary life— your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walkingaround life—and place it before God as an offering?”
- Kingdom Reflection: Since we have a “great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1) that are cheering us on from the “bleachers of eternity,” and have gone before us and laid the groundwork in life and discipline for us, what responsibility do we have, as the Church-on-earth, to take time to investigate and exercise the Christian “best practices” that have been left to us?
Optional Time of Centering/Soaking:
If possible, take some time, perhaps 5 to 15 minutes, to get into a comfortable position and simply allow the Lord to minister to you at a deep level (Psalm 42:7). Turn off or put down all distractions. Close your eyes. Hold in your thoughts a meaningful word, phrase, or image from the Scripture passages you read today. Release all other thoughts and concerns into the Presence of the Lord. If your thoughts wander, that’s okay, just gently return to your Scriptural word, phrase, or image. You may want to set a timer.