We began our study on The Lord’s Prayer [see Prototype] and learned that prayer isn’t automatic to the spiritual life. Jesus’ followers asked, “Lord, teach us to pray” [Luke 11:1]. Prayer is a learnable discipline. And it takes time to build discipline in the spiritual life.
In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Paul describes the spiritual life as a race and a fight. Both require effort and training. To his young disciple Timothy, Paul urged, “[T]rain yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” [1 Timothy 4:7-8]. The Godward life requires deliberate work. But, this work yields a payout for those who discipline their mind, heart and body. Donald Whitney affirms, “The Gold of godliness isn’t found on the surface of Christianity. It has to be dug from the depths with the tools of the Disciplines” [Spiritual Discipline for the Christian Life]. Speaking of the disciplined life, I’ll never forget the teaching of the late Vernon Grounds, “Ruts of routine are God’s grooves of grace. They are the roads that God uses to direct us to Himself.”
There are a number of spiritual disciplines practiced by Christians throughout history: Bible Study, verse memory, fasting, verse memory, meditation, silence, solitude, worship and prayer. In The Lord’s Prayer, Jesus’ gives His disciples a template—a prototype prayer. One writer calls this “The prayer that teaches to pray.” The Lord’s Prayer isn’t intended to be prayed [though you can] as much as it’s intended to lead me into deeper praying. Each phrase unfolds something of the glorious nature of God and the depth of my human need. In fact, the very practice of prayer leads me into more prayerfulness.
When I was in college, I stumbled across a book titled The 31 Day Experiment. The author pitched that good habits are formed by 31 days of discipline. Do anything for a month and it becomes lifestyle. So, I choose to discipline myself in prayer. Not just spontaneous praying when I see a sunrise or think about my friend in need. But a focused, regular rhythm of prayer. I need more of this.In November 2010, Tiffany talked me into running. I had resisted the exercise for 45 years. Then, on a whim, we went out for a casual, 3-mile jaunt. It took me three days to catch my breath. Over the next few months, my body adjusted to the habit and, very soon, breathing became easier and three miles became five and more. I recently ran 15 miles—a goal that seemed impossible to me a year ago. But, discipline makes distance possible.
I want to run further in knowing God, hearing God, experiencing God, being changed by God. This spiritual distance is possible through spiritual discipline. It’s day three. And, I’m running.