For years I poured myself into dance. By middle school, I was at the studio four nights a week, learning and rehearsing. Each goal I set for myself pushed me to work harder, and it paid off. My last performance with that dance company, a ballet solo, reflected all the hours and years of practice.
Isn’t that what’s drilled into us–“practice makes perfect?” I have taken it to heart my entire life. I practiced till I made the cheer squad. I practiced till I made Show Choir. And so on…
Then last year, JD Walt shared with his readers a conversation he had with God that caused a significant shift in my ‘practice’ paradigm:
“John David, you still think this morning meeting with me is a spiritual practice. It’s not practice. This is the game. This is not like practicing meditation or yoga or even the way you tend to think about ‘spiritual disciplines’ or even having a ‘quiet time.’ This is a meeting with me. I am discipling you. We sit together in silence. I bring my Word into your mind and you contemplate it in your heart, storing it up like treasure so it will be available in the field as needed—bread for the eating, seed for the sowing.
I breathe my Spirit into the lungs of your spirit day by day expanding your capacity for me to indwell you all the time. I put thoughts in your mind and impressions in your spirit. In this meeting, John David, you behold me and I bless you. You pour out yourself and all your insecurities, and I fill you with my life, and all my provisions. When you miss this meeting, it’s not like you skipped practice. You missed the game.
If there’s one thing you need to understand, it is that you just can’t miss meetings with me. There is just too much at stake for you and for all the people who are looking for me to show up through you in their lives every day. Our meeting every day—it’s not practice. It’s the game.”Seedbed Daily Text, 2/21/2021
So much of what JD says pricks my conscience. I have approached my relationship with God as a goal to attain–I’ve ‘practiced’ as if I would ‘achieve.’ Yet, as God is showing me, an abiding life with God is not a practice. It’s the game–one that we’re meant to enter everyday.
There is too much at stake, friends, for us not to take seriously this daily meeting with God, this life of abiding in Him.
Then There’s Practice
Yet, here I am throwing the P word out at you. And I will all summer–for a few reasons.
- We are sorely out of practice. For most of us, we don’t know how to get in the game.
- Our current time with God has become stale–so routine, there’s little-to-no connection.
- There are many ‘practices’ out there that can help us enter the game.
- There’s the science that proves we can retrain our brains–by repetition.
Notice what’s not on that list. “We can do this! All we have to do is follow a five point model of behavior modification, and we’ll achieve perfect status with God.” Nope. Not at all. In fact, that whole mindset is of the world. Just look how huge the self-help aisle is at Barnes and Noble.
I think where I’m going with this–because I’m learning with you as we go–is there is much we can do to move us toward an abiding life. Like practice. Google offers a definition for practice that I think helps direct us toward our purpose: “the actual application or use of an idea, belief, or method, as opposed to theories relating to it.”
Remember, this journey is about abiding with God. Yes, learning how to, but also doing it. Not just rattling off theories and methods, but the actual dwelling with God. That’s why this summer I would love to offer practices and prayers we can employ as we endeavor to enter the game.
Week One Practice
Last week I introduced our Abide series by explaining there are threats, or breakers, to our ability of getting alone with God regularly. But there are also things we can do to bust the breakers. We can implement builders that help us step into God’s presence.
In Ephesians 6, Paul addresses the biggest threat to this abiding life: Satan. Because our battle is not against flesh but powers and principalities and spiritual darkness (v.12), Paul offers equipment we can use to defend ourselves and fight back: the Armor of God.
Each week, I’ll focus on a specific piece of the armor. However, we really need to be putting on all of them everyday, and we’ll see by the end of the summer how each week’s ‘piece’ builds into the whole. We’ll just break it down, one at a time.
Let’s begin building a habit of taking hold of the Sword of the Spirit (v.17). This holy book is the only offensive (as opposed to defensive) weapon of the bunch because it is the Word of God, which goes out from us, like a sword, to dispel the enemy’s lies. Jesus models for us how to wield this weapon each time Satan comes at him with a temptation in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11). But to use it, we must know it. And, we must learn to sit with it. As God instructed JD, we need to contemplate the Word in our hearts. One reason is so the Word is at the ready when the attacks come.
I’m realizing that I’ve practiced reading the Bible to get information for so long that I don’t know how to ‘contemplate’ it. I’ll have to start practicing a new way.
So, for this week, let’s pick one passage to park on. If you have no idea where to start, I offer up Psalm 1. Read it; reread it. Pause when something gets your attention–even if you don’t know why. Come back to the passage again and again, giving space for the Spirit to speak. Maybe even read it in multiple translations.
Week One Prayer
The structure for this entire series poured out of me one day after praying aloud the Warfare Prayer by Dr. Victor Matthews. A friend recently sent it to me, and I just keep being amazed by it. Its combination of God’s Word and God’s power become an unbeatable weapon in our armory.
The first day I prayed this prayer happened to be one full of runaway emotions. I felt powerless to help my sons, to speak truth in their lives, to control my feelings as they swirled and spiraled. Out of desperation for God, I read the words of the prayer out loud through tears. Then I got to this paragraph:
“I am thankful that You have made a provision so that today I can live filled with the Spirit of God with love and joy and peace, with longsuffering, gentleness and goodness, with meekness, faithfulness, and self-control in my life. I recognize that this is Your will for me and I therefore reject and resist all the endeavors of Satan and his wicked spirits to rob me of the will of God. I refuse in this day to believe my feelings…”
The floodgates opened–I refuse to believe my feelings. My soul felt the truth of it. Discouragement and fear had overcome my ability to trust God. I reread those words multiple times, agreeing with them in my spirit, and the miracle of peace came over me. Hope saturated my entire being as I stood from my chair to complete the prayer.
The rest of that day words and phrases from this Warfare Prayer kept coming to mind. I knew deep down this prayer had been handed to me as a gift–one that should be opened everyday.
So, it is with great pleasure, and his permission, that I share with you Dr. Matthews’ Warfare Prayer. It’s a bit long to paste here, so I recommend clicking the link and printing it out–even saving it to your phone so that you always have it handy. Then every single day possible, make these words your own.
Over the course of the summer, we’ll step up to the plate, faithful to practice and enter God’s presence. And as we do, we’ll witness our worldly desires dissipate into what God has for us. We’ll watch as our duty-driven religion drifts into oblivion because the desire to dwell with God dominates our thoughts and want-to’s. We’ll wonder and marvel at the way our hearts and minds and spirits awaken to the abiding presence of God–and how everything in us wants more of Him.
This summer of abiding will be one of practice. But even more so, it’s the game!
- Week One Practice = contemplate a passage of Scripture, really let it do its work in you.
- Week Two Prayer = Dr. Matthews’ Warfare Prayer
- Each time we share our experiences–good or bad–we encourage community, which is key to our spiritual growth. So, comment below or join in the conversation on Instagram.
- Settling into worshpful ‘practices’ is encouraged with music, so I hope our Abide playlist helps you enter the game!