I thought it might be interesting to post a spiritual practice today. This a common spiritual exercise I use when leading folks through times of retreat. The goal isn’t earning “points” per se, the goal of the disciplines is never “earning.” As Dallas Willard once said, “Grace is opposed to earning, not to effort.”
A spiritual practice is an effort that is met, sustained by, and infused with grace.
The act of fasting, worship, service, silence, and solitude (among others) is first and foremost about making space for grace.
In this post I want to give you some guidance on a practice you can do at home or even on a break at work. It doesn’t involve any props or tools, save for a journal if you would like.
Before we go further, I think it is necessary to make one particular statement:
The best way to enter into a spiritual practice is to give yourself room to fail.
Depending on what Enneagram number you identify with, or what Myers-Briggs or DiSC assessment you’ve taken, a spiritual practice can become something hazardous. Practices can be times of competition, guilt-drenched failure, or hardened obligation. My prayer is that this practice remains above and beyond these more corrosive energies.
In order to move beyond obligation or competition, my other suggestion would be that you tell as few people as possible that you are engaging in this practice. Talk to the people who know you best: those who know you in your best times, but also those who know your darker tendencies. People can help us with practices, not simply by saying “Did you do that spiritual thing?” but by asking good questions and listening to our experience.
Here are the instructions for the practice. Feel free to augment them for the sake of use, but be careful not to change the practice because the process is too “challenging.” Here is where we get to the “practice” part of practice. When swimmers swim their 50m sprints or basketball players run line drills, they typically don’t sing the praises of practice. They have simply bought into the bigger picture – if I do these small (challenging) things now, I’ll become better for the game (in our case, life) that is ahead.
My prayer is that this practice will feel MUCH better than running line drills. Only one way to find out…
- Find a quiet spot in your house or wherever you are.Turn off any devices that could ding and distract you. It is important to be able to focus on what your mind and body are saying, as well as what God is saying.
- Get into a comfortable posture.The most helpful posture is to sit in a chair, feet on the floor, back straight. Sit comfortably but eliminate any slouching. Your blood flows more freely, and therefore your mind works better, when your body isn’t in a slouch.
- Pay attention to your breathing.Take full, deep breaths through your nose and release the air slowly from your mouth. Give yourself 2-3 minutes to just breathe and adjust to that rhythm of breathing. Yawning will happen, don’t worry!
- After a time of breathing, close your eyes and imagine the safest place you know.
- After some time of thinking about your safe space, imagine that Jesus is there with you.Picture him in your mind, and concentrate on the details of Jesus’ presence. How does it feel to know that he is there, with you? What look do you find on his face? Imagine his eyes – what do they say to you?
Give yourself some time to envision Jesus as he rests with you in your safe space.
- Now imagine Jesus turns to you and says, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:35-52)Imagine what those words would sound like. Jesus is asking honestly, you can tell this isn’t a set up for some sort of “teaching moment.” Jesus is inviting you to bring your desires to him, in a place where you feel safe.
- Take a moment and think on the question.You might have many different desires to bring to Jesus. What response continues to come to mind repeatedly? When you feel you have landed on a response, simply offer it to Jesus. Pay attention to what words you use when you express your desire. Did you hold something back? Were you hesitant? Did you ask for part of your desire, or the whole? If so, verbally add the rest of your desire to your response.
- Imagine Jesus taking in your response.What do you notice about him? Has his posture changed? What about the look on his face? Jesus is pausing with your desire, taking it in.
Let the silence continue as you envision him thinking on your response.
- Picture Jesus responding to the desire you expressed.Listen for whatever He may say, through His Spirit, regarding your desire. Of course, this is where a journal would be helpful – write down anything that you hear, or any reaction you have either in your mind or in your physical body. Do you feel a sense of relief? Is there a knot in your muscles or stomach? Write down whatever you sense.
- Sit for a while in your safe space.This is a good time to learn how to “abide” (John 15:1-15) with Jesus, without needing anything from him. Rest knowing you are loved and cared for, like a child with its mother that’s simply there for the company (Psalm 131). End the practice when you feel free to leave the safe space.