The Secret Formula for Spiritual Growth

January 29, 2013

Pursuing God every day through personal spiritual disciplines is the backbone of Christian spirituality. This is the single most effective thing you can to do know God more intimately, experience his presence, and grow spiritually.

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Yet many people find the pursuit of God a difficult habit to establish. I know I did.

My own practice of daily prayer and Bible reading, the classic “time alone with God” activities, was a long-time challenge.

It was a little like managing the lawn trimmer that I use in my yard. The two-stroke gasoline engine that powers the trimmer is notoriously hard to start. After priming the engine, setting the choke, and pulling on the starter cord 10 or 15 times, the engine sputters one.

After a half-dozen more pulls, it revs for a few seconds. Finally, after one last pull on the starter, the tiny engine revs to full pitch and runs perfectly.

The trimmer is surprisingly powerful and indispensable for keeping my property in shape. But it is hard to start and it stalls at the drop of a hat.

Spiritual disciplines are like that. They are difficult to establish but incredibly powerful. Once you learn the secret power of spending daily time with God, you’ll find it to be a rich source of spiritual strength.

Have you struggled to pursue God daily through personal spiritual disciplines? Here’s help.

1. Make a Start.

The hardest part of any endeavor is getting started. Inertia is a tremendously powerful force in your life. But once you do begin, momentum builds and you find yourself able to continue.

Prayer and Bible reading are the two most commonly practiced spiritual disciplines, but there others, including fasting, silence, solitude, simplicity, rest, journaling, hospitality, confession, charity, and penance.

Choose one, and begin today.

2. Make a Plan

You need a plan if you are to successfully establish the habit of pursuing God every day. Your day is already too full with responsibilities and opportunities. To add something, even a brief prayer time, you will have to subtract something else. What will it be?

If you are to pray, when will you pray? Where? For how long?

If you choose to fast, which meals will you fast? Will it be a complete fast or a partial fast?

If you want to practice solitude, how will you manage to get alone? Where will you go? Who will watch your children?

Make your plan manageable and realistic. It has to work in the real world.

3. Be Disciplined Every Day

Your resolve to pursue God will be tested on the very first day. If you decide to fast for lunch tomorrow, you’ll probably get an invitation to lunch. If you determine to pray for 15 minutes every morning, you are sure to get a phone call during that daily quiet time.

And if others don’t interrupt your plan, you are likely to sabotage it yourself. Your mind will wander to your to-do list during prayer. You’ll be tempted to check Facebook “just for a minute” before reading your Bible.

You must be disciplined.

The key is to practice these disciplines daily. Yes, you’ll get interrupted from time to time. But if you make a serious effort to seek God every day, you will succeed most of the time.

4. Be Patient

This will take you awhile. Like losing weight, saving money, or lifting weights, spiritual disciplines pay gradual, long-term results. Don’t expect to be a spiritual giant after one day of prayer. Keep at it.

5. Be Open

You cannot build a relationship on a lie. You must be honest with God and yourself in order for spiritual disciplines to be effective.

Don’t fear the silence or be afraid of what God will say. Be still. Be open. Drop your defenses. Let go of your plans. Don’t try to control the outcome of your time in God’s presence.

This will work. A. W. Tozer wrote in The Pursuit of God, “God is not silent, has never been silent. It is the nature of God to speak.” When you seek God, you will find him.

What is your favored spiritual discipline?



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Lawrence W. Wilson

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I write about life and faith and what it means to be fully human and a fully devoted follower of Jesus. I've written a few books including A Different Kind of Crazy and Why Me? Straight Talk about Suffering. When I have ideas that might help you transform your life and community, I post them here.