Last week, I read an article that talked about practicing the five foundational habits of discipleship and how these habits can be better incorporated into our ministry through accountability and and much self-discipline. These habits, in no particular order, are: 1. Spending personal time in prayer, 2. Studying/journaling/reflecting on scripture daily, 3. Memorizing scripture, 4. Being active in the church body, and 5. Practicing the three daily habits of evangelism (I'll get into those another time). Surprisingly, being involved in the church body has been the easiest habit for me to practice whereas spending personal time in prayer, studying the Bible and memorizing scriptures haven't been so easy. Remember, this is coming from an introvert who doesn't do a lot of socializing.
Throughout the article, Paul Worcester emphasizes the importance of each of these habits when discipling and mentoring our college ministry's staff and student leaders. In fact, one of his own staff members, whom he often follows up with for accountability in these areas, "sees these habits not as lessons to take a person through, but training objectives to ingrain into a disciple's life." Of course, any of us (myself included) can read about the necessity of these habits and be enlightened by the knowledge and encouragement the article brings to the table but if we don't make an effort to put them into practice, they won't do us any good. There's a saying that's often used when learning a language, "If you don't use it, you lose it." I believe this applies to many other areas in life as well, including the practice of healthy habits, whether spiritual or physical. Learning about them and how to use them is one thing but the effort is pointless if we don't practice using them.
What's especially important though, is that we avoid making the practice of these habits legalistic. There are so many times when I feel like I should read my Bible or spend time in prayer because I know it's what I should do as a Christian. But to practice any of these habits out of obligation would deem us no better than the infamous Pharisees we read about in the New Testament. "Spiritual disciplines are not practiced for the purpose of earning God's favor," Worcester adds. "Jesus accomplished that through His death on the cross!" It ought to be out of sincere gratitude for what He's done---and longing to commune with Him---that we should practice these disciplines; not because we have to, but because we want to. That doesn't mean it's still an everyday struggle though. Like many other things (exercise included), these spiritual disciplines need to be practiced even on the days when we don't feel like doing them. The more we practice these habits, the better we'll get at doing them and the more we'll enjoy them too.
Being a college ministry, CoMission highly values each one of these spiritual disciplines and our on-campus staff (also known as multipliers) make every effort to challenge and encourage their students to practice these habits on some level. The staff team also meets together every Monday morning for an hour of prayer together before getting into our regular meeting. Of course, we each value them too but I for one struggle with making them an everyday priority in my personal life. The fact of the matter is, I oftentimes find it difficult to enjoy spending time with the Lord. My mind wonders and sometimes I even doze off. Naturally, excuses abound for putting Him off but they're not acceptable.
Two days ago, I deleted all my social media apps off my phone (except Marco Polo because I'm not exactly hooked on that) to prevent the temptation of spending mindless hours of scrolling. The intent is spending at least a few minutes in prayer every time I get the urge to scroll and get filled in on everyone else's lives. That hasn't happened yet but Lord willing, His Spirit will slap me into shape sooner than later. Sleep has also become an idol in my life over the last couple of years and that's a hard one to shatter. When you're in a brain fog and can't focus on anything because you're tired, why even bother right? Well, I think I'm learning that praying while falling asleep is proving to be helpful because I actually woke up before my alarm this morning and was ready to seize the day. Well, sort of. I still took a few extra minutes before rolling out of bed but I'm sure I shaved off at least 5 minutes.
Regardless of whatever baby steps we need to take to move in the right direction toward making these spiritual disciplines a part of our regular routines, I believe the Lord will honor our efforts. My prayer for all of us this next week is that we will ask Him to fill us with His spirit that we may continue to grow in our joy in Him.
"I saw more clearly than ever that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord." - George Muller