I have a deep sympathy with individuals who find it hard to practice spiritual disciplines. For many years, I could not find the right pattern for regular prayer and Bible Study. Like many pastors, I studied the scriptures for professional reasons: preparing sermons, leading Bible study and teaching classes.
But what did I do to nourish my own relationship with Christ?
Over the years, leading Disciple Bible Study helped me. That required weekly preparation, and I moved to, at least, doing all of the readings each week. At first, I did not do the daily study it calls for. But by the ninth time I led a Disciple I group, I was reading the scriptures and praying at least four days a week.
The breakthrough came when I became concerned about organizing my time better. A speaker recommended having a “to do” list and starting each day with it. Somewhere, I got the idea of putting my prayer routine at the top of my “to do” list.
About the same time, a speaker at a youth event talked about the different kinds of prayer. Those two things were the key for me.
I start out each day with the following headings at the top of my list:
I then go to the Daily Devotion email from the Great Plains. In it, I get a devotional from the Upper Room, a scripture reading and the names of three pastors and churches to pray for — one from each conference. If you don’t receive the Daily Devotion email, you can sign up at www.GreatPlainsUMC.org/DailyDevotion. I then read my own chosen text, Ephesians 2:1-10.
Lent is a time when I examine my spiritual practices and make improvements in them. I don’t want to do something special during Lent and then go back to business as usual after Easter Sunday. I am hopeful that each Lenten season and each Holy Week will be times of spiritual growth that allow me to be even stronger in my faith, my hope and my love for God and neighbor than I was before.
John Wesley taught that God’s grace is always at work in our lives. That is true all the time. Prevenient grace is at work before we are aware of it. Yet, God has set aside means of grace that are the ordinary channels through which justifying and sanctifying grace comes to us. Some of these means are corporate; worship, communion and baptism are examples. Others are done privately.
In this year of uniting as the Great Plains Conference, you have the opportunity to join with other United Methodists in Kansas and Nebraska and practice spiritual disciplines together as we prepare for the Uniting Conference Aug. 22-24.
“From Pentecost to Uniting” is a series of devotions written by 14 pastors across Kansas and Nebraska focusing on Pentecost in preparation for our Uniting Conference.
The set of devotions are posted online at www.greatplainsumc.org/UnitingDevotional. A tip sheet for using the devotions personally or with a group in your congregation also is posted there. Beginning May 19, a link will be included in each day’s Great Plains Daily Devotion, and questions for digging deeper will be posted on the Engage the Great Plains site, www.EngageGreatPlainsUMC.org.
I invite you and your congregation to join me in using these devotions in your practice of spiritual disciplines and growing deeper in your faith, your hope and your love for God and neighbor.