My late wife, Judy, was in a nursing home and was starting to improve slightly as she recovered from her second surgery to remove a brain tumor. After this operation she couldn’t walk, talk or move her right side. In total she would spend 12 weeks in two hospitals and a nursing home learning how to function again. As time went on, it became increasingly painful for me to leave her at night, especially after she slowly regained her cognitive skills.
Eventually, I obtained a Christ in Our Home devotional and began doing evening devotions with her before leaving. That ritual gave me a sense of peace and breathed new life into my soul. We continued after she came home and maintained it even when she went into hospice care months later. When she lost the ability to speak, I did all of the readings until she died.
That spiritual routine, born out of a very painful time in my life, would continue for me but change significantly. It’s still part of my prayer ritual. My evening devotions are a portion of several practices that I do as part of my spiritual pilgrimage in my quest to become a more faithful disciple of Christ.
Our daily bread
Working with Lutheran churches over the years as a spiritual consultant and director of small-group ministries, I’ve often been asked: “How do we become more disciplined in our spiritual walk in order to better hear God’s voice and guidance in our lives?” There is no easy answer to this question. However, when we are intentional in our times of prayer, the Spirit opens our hearts to God’s love, helping us to be more receptive to further opportunities for growth.
Throughout the centuries, spiritual mothers and fathers have written about and have led lives that demonstrated the importance of prayer on the spiritual journey. To live out our faith, we must put some exertion into our prayer lives. The constant message of our devout ancestors was that discipleship takes spiritual discipline.
I’ve often been asked: “How do we become more disciplined in our spiritual walk in order to better hear God’s voice and guidance in our lives?”
Martin Luther felt that finding time to pray was as essential as breathing—that one had to find ways to make it happen. In A Simple Way to Pray, he wrote: “It is a good thing to let prayer be the first business of the morning and the last at night. Guard yourself carefully against those false, deluding ideas which tell you, ‘Wait a little while. I will pray in an hour; first I must attend to this or that.’ ”
In the Lord’s Prayer, we are instructed to pray for our daily bread. If that is the case, are we not also to strive daily to find times to nourish our souls?
One way to endeavor to do this is to engage in some discipleship practices or enhance those we might already have:
Be intentional about listening to God.
We can pray at any time of the day or night and God will certainly hear the desires of our hearts. But if we don’t have a specific quiet time when we can pray and reflect without distraction, will we be able to hear the Lord speaking to us? Prayer can be thought of as a two-way conversation. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus goes off by himself to pray, away from the crowds. He apparently knew that to be able to talk with his Father and truly listen, he needed definite quiet times alone. If we are to be his faithful followers, we also need times apart from the hectic activity of our lives.
Identify the moments that work for you.
In our society it can be challenging to find quiet time and space to be able to commune with God. Nevertheless, we manage to make time for other things that are important in our lives. Look for moments when you can be alone and quiet so the Spirit can lead and support you. This might be during the morning, afternoon or evening, depending on the rhythm of your day.
Set aside a specific quiet time.
Discipleship takes spiritual discipline, so start slowly in developing your practices. But make a commitment to set aside a specific time each day to spend in quiet conversation, study and reflection with God. When we seek God, we learn that the Lord has already been seeking us, wants to dwell with us and welcomes us with overwhelming joy.