Girls, I just have to share with you these five spiritual disciplines that have been revolutionizing my life! These have been used by Christians for generations—I just never knew about them. And now I want to tell everyone I know.
1. The Daily Office
Last month I read an awesome book (Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero) that talked about the power of spending time with God three times a day, using Scripture readings, prayers from the Book of Common Prayer and meditations on the psalms. The author called it “The Daily Office.”
I tried it, and girls, I fell in love. This adds so much depth to my time with God, and it helps me stay focused on Him all day long!
The Daily Office has actually been around for centuries! Back in the olden days, it meant reciting certain prayers at certain times of day, but I like to use it as a simple way to reconnect with God three times a day. So how does this look in my personal quiet time?
Each morning, right after I get up, I spend some time meditating on the psalm I’m reading that day. This helps me focus my mind on God from the get-go. Then I spend time reading my Bible and praying, like I normally would for devotions. That’s my morning office.
Sometime in the afternoon, I spend a few minutes reconnecting with God. Sometimes that’s through meditation on Scripture; other days that means going for a walk and talking with Him, or reading a spiritual growth book. I just look for one way to reconnect with Him.
Right before bed is my final office of the day. This is when I love to use The Prayer of Examen—which you’ll hear about next!
Setting aside these moments throughout the day to reconnect with God helps me stay constantly aware of His presence. I just love it!
2. Prayer of Examen
This spiritual discipline was developed by St. Ignatius of Loyola (an early church father). Basically, it’s a way of reviewing your day with God.
Here’s my version of this discipline.
Right before bed, I quiet my heart before God and meditate on Him for a few minutes. It’s a great idea to pray Psalm 139:23-24 here: “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
Then I mentally review my day with God, asking Him to show me the times and places where I trusted Him and those times and places where I didn’t, and asking Him to teach me through it all. This helps me feel a sense of closure to the day, and see how God was guiding me all day long, even when I felt anxious or confused.
3. Praying a Labyrinth
As you might know, a labyrinth is a circular maze you cannot get lost in; there is one long, curving path into its center, and then you take the same path back out. Honestly, I always assumed this was some kind of weird, new-age thing. Little did I know you can actually use a labyrinth as a method of prayer!
I found that out this summer as I was reading Sensible Shoes by Sharon Garlough Brown. She recommends praying a labyrinth like this:
- Use your walk into the center of the labyrinth as a time to give God the worries in your heart and surrender yourself to Him. I like to ask Him to bring to mind the things I need to surrender that day.
- Pause in the center of the labyrinth for as long as you need to, just being with God.
- On your way out of the labyrinth, open your hands to God. Ask Him what He wants to give you. Sometimes He’ll put a verse or thought in my heart that is just perfect for the next few days.
The problem is that we don’t all have labyrinths hanging out in our neighborhoods! (How cool would that be?) So instead, go for a walk in a quiet area where you can focus. As you walk, set your timer for 10 minutes. Spend 10 minutes praying your way “into the labyrinth,” then set your timer for five minutes and “be in the center,” and finally, spend your last 10 minutes coming “out of the labyrinth.”
4. Putting Yourself in the Story
The Bible has so many more layers than I could ever discover! It’s easy to just read it as a book of facts, but it’s so much more than that! The Holy Spirit breathes into it and makes it come alive to us. One way to explore a deeper layer (which I also learned in Sensible Shoes) is to put yourself in the story.
It’s especially helpful to do this with stories and parables in the gospel. Here’s how: I read the passage a couple of times and then think, Where am I in this story? Where am I sitting? What am I saying? What is Jesus saying to me? I’ll even try to close my eyes and imagine the story, like I’m right there, hearing the noise of the crowd or the warmth of the day.
I can’t tell you how many beautiful things God has spoken to my heart through this method of Bible study!
5. Lectio Divina
This form of Bible study originates with the early church fathers (and I do mean early, as in the third century AD!). It’s a way of applying Scripture to our lives through meditation, prayer and contemplation.
I learned this approach to Bible study at my church. This is the way I learned to do it—which is a little different from its traditional form:
1) Read a Bible passage, asking, “What does this teach me about God?”
2) Read the passage again, asking, “What does this teach me about the world?”
3) Read the passage once more, asking, “What does this teach me about myself?”
This helps me learn so much more from any given passage.
God has brought many new insights to me through these five spiritual disciplines! That’s why I hope they can encourage you as well.
And now it’s your turn: What are some surprising spiritual disciplines YOU’VE discovered that have brought your walk with God to a whole new level? Please share in the comments, so your PI sisters can try them, too!