Praying the promises is a practice of fighting temptation, despair, frustration and apathy by centering our attention on promises God has made in His word, and putting our hope in these promises rather than whatever we can come up by our own energy. We turn these promises into prayers, asking God to provide for what He has promised, through Jesus, so that we can abide with God
Generally we think that a life of discipline must mean drudgery, painful practices and boring, empty motions. But this is not so! Spiritual practices are a way of experiencing the truth of the Gospel—that God is good, forgiving, present, and has done everything needed to secure our joy in Him forever! An approach to spiritual practices that does not give birth to joy is empty and entirely unbiblical.
Celebration is a central practice of the Christian life because we have very, very much to rejoice in! God is constantly providing good things for us, both magnificent and simple. Relationships, sunrises, birdsongs, forgiveness, coffee, careers, friends—all come from the hand of God!
Celebration is a very serious practice. It is not a superficial time for having fun “just because.” It is the intentional pursuit of a deep recognition of God’s goodness, through meaningful, weighty expression of joy. That’s not easy! It takes thought, care, planning, time. But intentional celebration gives us a deep sense of God’s goodness.
The greatest gift of the Gospel is God Himself. Above forgiveness, eternal life, transformation of our hearts, the best joy is that we get God! He is always with us, and always delighted in us, because we are His children. But this deep intimacy for which our heart yearns—and which no person can satisfy—is hard to enter. We forget. We believe lies (about God, about ourselves). And so we walk as though we were not in the presence of our Beloved, even as He is closer than our breath.
Throughout the New Testament, Jesus and the apostles urge us to pray always. We generally assume that by this they mean that we should bring all our needs to God; and this is surely important. But through Church history, many have believed that God intends us to live continually in His presence, with unbroken communication. And this is not a burden, but a privilege. “There is no mode of life in the world more pleasing and more full of delight than continual conversation with God,” writes Brother Lawrence.
Breath prayer is a practice aimed at cultivating the habit of continually abiding in the presence of God. It is a laying hold of the Gospel—for only through Jesus can we have boldness to think God would be near our hearts, in every circumstance!
The Bible makes clear that God’s heart is with the outcast, the marginalized, the alien and stranger. He calls us to be with them as well, to make room in our lives for those who have no place to rest. This practice has been central to Christians throughout Church history because of Jesus’ promise in Matthew 25 that, when we feed the hungry and care for the needy, we are caring directly for Him. This practice, then, is a way of welcoming Jesus into our midst as we welcome those He loves.
God invites us into life with Him, always. But we tend to be distracted, anxiously preoccupied with jobs, family, money, possessions, dangers and hopes. In the rush of life, we forget the one thing that matters—Him! This practice is one way to start turning our eyes toward Him throughout our day. The goal is not to make rules that burden us, but instead to create triggers that remind us of what we really desire, so that the sight of beauty, pain, or another person becomes an instant reminder that God is with us.
The Bible is different from other books—its Author invites us, through its pages, into a personal, daily relationship with Him. The purpose of the Bible, ultimately, is not to give us facts, interesting stories or moral rules. Through every passage, God is inviting us to know Him the way we know a good friend, the way we know how apple pie tastes and the way we know what salty sea air smells like. He wants us to experience His presence as we read.
The practice of reading the Bible meditatively—searching to experience the God we are reading about—was the main way of reading the Bible for the first 1,500 years of the church. Rather than attempting to plow through large chunks of text (which is something that can only happen once people become literate and have the Word in their hands), Christians would listen to small portions of the Bible and hold onto a word, a phrase, a verse and mull over it throughout the week. The nugget of truth they found there would be, for them, an invitation into life with God each day.
- Opening to God, David Benner
- Life with God: Reading the Bible for Spiritual Transformation, Richard J. Foster
- Sacred Reading, Michael Casey
- Too Deep for Words, Thelma Hall