4 Spiritual Disciplines I Use to Nurture My Relationship with God
As we close this series on developing a personal relationship with God, I want to focus on some spiritual disciplines that I practice frequently if not daily: Prayer, Fasting, Meditation and Declaration. My journey from spiritually numb and empty to vibrant and fulfilled was and still is one that requires constant renewal. As Ephesians 4:23 says “and be renewed in the Spirit of your minds”.
I must admit my prayer life isn’t what it should be. Sometimes I feel like I’m in the flow and in constant communication with God and at other times I feel like my prayers are bouncing off the walls! There are times I don’t even know what to pray for and I have to ask the Holy Spirit to pray for me (Romans 8:26).
Recently, I found my prayer life was becoming a little routine and I realized I needed to be more intentional and change my approach to prayer for this season. That’s when I began praying out loud. Some of you may already incorporate this but for me this was a game changer. Speaking God’s word back to Him was more for me than it was for Him. God hears me when I pray silently but I needed to hear myself communicating with God. This practice has grown my prayer life immensely.
You may find that method helpful but you may be concerned with the content of your prayers. ACTS is an acronym for different types of prayers you can pray.
A: Adoration Prayer – Prayers that praise, honor and exalt God. Psalm 68:35, Psalm 111:1-4
C: Confession Prayer – Confessing our sin and admitting our need for God. 1 John 1:9
T: Thanksgiving Prayer – Giving thanks to God for His work in your life. Psalm 69:5, 1 Thessalonian 5:16-18
S: Supplication Prayer: Making requests or petitions to God. Asking Him to help you, for His will to be done or fill a need in your life. Philippians 4:6
I have found that fasting is one habit that truly enhances my relationship with God. It alerts me to just how attached I am to certain habits, foods, thoughts and desires and just how much I’ve allowed myself to be filled with something else other than Jesus.
The first time I fasted was probably over 10 years ago. I did it when my church established a corporate, church-wide fast at the beginning of the New Year. It was a twenty-one day Daniel Fast that required that we refrain from eating meat, dairy, sweets and bread.
Since that time I have incorporated fasts in my life on a more frequent and personal basis. Sometimes I fast when I’m feeling distant from God or when I need to hear from Him about a particular issue. This year, however, I’ve incorporated something different. This year I have fasted once a week (usually every Monday) after hearing a colleague mention that she had done something similar for a year every Friday. Even though I sometimes fast food, I usually incorporate a secular media fast or total media fast.
The thing that I’ve learned about fasting over the years is not to focus on what you’re giving up but use that hunger pang or desire to pick up the phone or tablet as a trigger to pray, meditate or read the Bible. This practice helps me keep the focus on God and not on myself.
I know word “meditation” can draw up thoughts of new age practices but meditation is mentioned in the Bible over 20 times! In fact as a spiritual discipline, Biblical meditation is not just about sitting silently and reciting a mantra, it is essentially taking a verse or scripture and repeating it in your mind over and over again.
Our minds can often go to negative places when we are struggling with a trial, however, meditation on scripture helps us replace those thoughts with the Word of the Lord. I like to take time and repeat a verse that has really stuck out to me and read it over and over emphasizing each word. After that I use my quiet time to sit silently and listen to what God has to say. There is a peace that often occurs after you sit in meditation with God. Your difficulty may not be resolved but the peace of God rests upon you as you sit alone with Him and His Word.
Another spiritual discipline that I find fulfilling is making declarations. Often after I pray and study, I like to write declarations and record myself saying them. Basically I take the word of God and I use it to answer any question I have. When I’ve found the scriptures that God has made a decree about I write them down. Then I make the scriptures personal to me and combine them all in a personal declaration. I love this practice because it makes me dig into the Word and experience God on a totally new and different level.
For instance, let’s say you find yourself ruminating and always thinking about your past mistakes and disappointments. Some scriptures that might speak to that are:
Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.
Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
After reading those, my declaration might say:
I do not dwell on the past and I am content with what I have and where I am. I focus on what God has said about me. God promised to do a new thing in my life, which is why I move forward towards the goal He has set before me.
I recite the my declarations at least twice a day. To take it a step further I record myself with my phone and listen to it. This is similar to praying aloud, which I mentioned earlier. This certainly encourages me on days when I need to remember what God has said about me.
What are some spiritual disciplines that you incorporate in nurturing your relationship with God? Do you ever find yourself having to switch up your routine? If so, how has it helped you?