Last week we saw that our overall well-being is dependent on good health in every area of our life – body, mind, and soul.
Further, we noted some ways that Jesus cared for the health of His soul as He walked this earth.
Particularly, we saw that He often pulled away from the activity of life in order that He might rest. As well, He spent time allowing God to replenish His soul through such things as prayer, interaction with Scripture, and circles of close friends.
In other words, Jesus engaged in what we today call spiritual disciplines or spiritual practices.
To clarify, spiritual practices can be thought of as anything that is intentionally done with the purpose of helping one become open to and remain open to the ongoing work of God in their life.
Did you see that? This is worth repeating:Spiritual practices can be thought of as anything that is intentionally done with the purpose of helping one become open to and remain open to the ongoing work of God in their life. Click To Tweet
They are so much more that simply a list of things we, as “good” Christians, SHOULD do.
I fear that far too many of us have come to view spiritual disciplines as draining OBLIGATIONS rather than as the powerful means for connecting with God, His grace, His energy, and His joy!
A spiritual discipline is “Any activity that is in our power and enables us to achieve by grace what we cannot achieve by direct effort.”Dallas Willard
While there’s no such thing as a complete list of spiritual practices, let’s consider the following 6 ways to care for the health of your soul.
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.James 5:16
Prayer is simply the act of conversing with God about what we are experiencing and about what, together with Him, we are doing. It is opening our lives to God and acknowledging our total dependence on Him.
Far more than an isolated act, prayer is a way of life.
Make it YOUR way of life by:
- Scheduling it. Write it on your calendar or set phone alarm reminders.
- Examining your life. Which are the daily life activities that provide room for prayer? Carpool line? Grocery checkout lane? Morning coffee? Laundry?
- Fitting it to your unique God-wiring. Does being in God’s creation set you ablaze? Pray as you walk through the park. Are you gifted at drawing? Pray in Color.
ENGAGE WITH SCRIPTURE
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…Colossians 3:16
As a spiritual practice Engaging with Scripture includes the very familiar spiritual discipline of reading the Bible. It also includes study of the Word, memorization, meditation on Scripture, attending organized Bible study, praying God’s Word, and the journaling of verses and passages along with many other ways of interacting with Holy Scripture.
Basically, this core discipline means to saturate your life with Scripture.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.Colossians 3:16-17
Recognizing the good and acknowledging it through acts and words. Gratitude is a by-product of the way we see things.
We don’t have to look far to discover the benefits of gratitude and thanksgiving to our well-being – body, mind, and soul.
Try going beyond the popular act of list-making. Give one of these creative twists a spin:
- Write a letter of gratitude to someone who has impacted your life. Don’t merely say thanks, share the WHY.
- Pray your own benedictions. Benedictions are brief statements that recognize the good that comes from God. Begin by making a list of things you are grateful to God for providing. Then go back and pray through the list. For each item on your list, begin your prayer with the words, “Blessed are You, O Lord….”
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.Psalm 23:1-3
According to the dictionary “rest” is the refreshing of oneself by such means as sleeping, lying down, or relaxing. It’s to relieve one’s weariness by the ceasing of work.
We could talk about “rest” as getting a good night’s sleep, taking naps, or observing Sabbaths. And while these are all great examples of rest, I think the bigger question lies not in HOW to rest but WHY rest is needed.
Take a quick look at the first three verses of Psalm 23:
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.Psalm 23:1-3, emphasis added
According to these verses, it is not my job to heal my soul. That is God’s work (vs. 3). My job is to lie down making space so the healing can come.
As a spiritual practice “rest” means to make soul space.
Where are your green pastures? Where are your still waters? How good are you at resting?
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!Psalm 139:23-24
Personal reflection or soul-searching is the spiritual practice of paying attention to our “stuff” in order that we might grow in our love for God and for others.
What is our “stuff” you might ask? Our “stuff” might be fear, anger, bitterness, or a judgmental attitude. It can be things such as worry, selfishness, or pride. Our “stuff” can be any number of things, but whatever it is, the Bible calls it sin.
Paying attention to our “stuff” (sin) is very important to the health of our soul. The spiritual practice of self-reflection helps to reveal those things that draw us away from God.
5 Questions for Self-Reflection
- Am I hearing from God?
- Have I lost my joy?
- Am I producing spiritual fruit?
- Have I grown in the last five years? In the last year?
- Do I love God more today than I did before?
Be still, and know that I am God.Psalm 46:10a
Solitude as a spiritual practice is the intentional refrain from interacting with other people in order to be alone with God.
In a world of noise and distraction, to which we’ve all become to some degree addicted, solitude can be a scary thing. However, it’s a discipline that is absolutely essential to the well-being of our soul.
Alone with God we sit in silence, undistracted. We draw near to Him, and He draws near to us. We listen. He transforms.
Prayer, Engaging with Scripture, Gratitude, Rest, Self-Reflection, and Solitude – these are just a sampling of the Spiritual Disciplines.
Confession, Fasting, Sabbath Keeping, Soul Friendships, Journaling, and Preaching the Gospel to Oneself add to the list… and there are many more.
The test of a sustaining spiritual practice isn’t “Do I find it on a list?”
Instead the question is “Does it connect me with God?”
Jesus learned and grew in the context of His relationship with His Father. His learning and growing were a result of His abiding in the Father’s Love. His time with His Father was THE most important thing to Him – not His ministry.
The whole point of tending to the soul is learning, growing, and abiding in our Father’s loving presence.