Stop Breathe Grow: Spiritual Disciplines for Your Soul

Each morning I go to the bay window of my bedroom and kneel at an altar that I have constructed on a long window bench. I meditate on the Scriptures lying there, pray from my prayer journal, and write in my reflection journal.

“Slowing” spiritual practices in these three areas—Scripture, prayer, and reflection— help us go deeper as we go broader in service to the world.

Scripture

Every morning I meet with God through an ancient Christian practice called lectio divina. It is a slow meditative reading of the Scriptures and is my favorite part of the day; I can’t live without it.

Many times we take the Scripture apart, and I am all for study, but in lectio divina we allow God to take us apart through the Scripture. There are many ways to do this ancient Christian practice, but I follow these simple steps:

Choose a short Scripture passage (5-10 verses).
Be silent before God.
Ask God to speak to you through the Scripture (Ps. 119:18).
Read the passage (aloud if possible).
Re-read the passage and look for what is standing out to you.
Re-read the passage and look for confirmation of what is standing out.
Re-read the passage asking if there is an invitation from God to you.
Pray to God about the things that stood out.
Sit in silence with God.

Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword....” The Holy Spirit has words stand out to us on the pages of Scripture for a reason—we need to hear them. God speaks, and we respond.

Prayer

Prayer is not just talking to God, but listening to Him. I open my prayer journal and pray through things I have listed, but there is much erasing and adding to the list as I reflect between each prayer.

Sometimes I just sit in silence and solitude and say nothing; I am just quiet before God. Some days this silence fills me with great peace, and others days I walk away with renewed strength.

Other times, when I’m trying to discern what work God wants me to do, I turn in my prayer journal to the page I have titled the “waiting page.” I list opportunities for ministry that come to my mind, but I don’t act on them until God confirms them.

My “waiting page” helps me not overextend myself. I generate a lot of ideas to implement in service to others, but not all of them are for me. Some ideas God brings to my mind again and again, and some drift away over time. A few minutes of silence closes my morning prayers.

Reflection
At the end of the day, I reflect on events using an ancient Christian practice called examen. It helps me to be more attentive to God’s work in my life throughout each day. There are many ways to do examen, but I follow these simple steps:

Ask God to be with you as you review the day with Him.
Ask these questions and write in your journal.

What was life-giving and life-thwarting today?
When did I best connect with God, self, and others today?
When did I least connect with God, self, and others today?

Reflecting on the life-giving moments gives me a chance to say thanks to God for large and small gifts He has given me throughout the day. Reflecting on life-thwarting moments helps me see and confess sin not yet addressed, points out areas for which I need to trust God, and helps me discern which work to do or not do.

As we seek to go broader in service to others we need to be servants of a different type—contemplative activists. “Slowing” disciplines in Scripture, prayer, and reflection will help us grow spiritually strong and aid us in our work of service.