March 18, 2021
Weekly Reflection – What Tools Do You Use?
What “tools” do you use in living the Christian life? Several options immediately come to mind: Bible study (one might even peg the Bible as a spiritual toolbox), prayer and fasting, hymns, fellowship with other Christians, etc. This week I have reflected on some of the tools that have been meaningful to me over the past few decades.
One “tool” that has evolved in my life is the use of several forms of prayer. Most of us have grown up using what I call “conversational” prayer in which we consciously go to God with our problems, praise Him for the good that has come our way, ask for favors, lament difficult situations, etc. In addition to this, I’ve discovered the use of two other forms of prayer, what I call “contemplative” prayer and “community” prayer. Of course, one could also categorize other forms of prayer such as “liturgical” (i.e., The Lord’s Prayer) or “extemporaneous.”
Sometime in 1995, my first wife was undergoing treatment for advanced cancer. The hospital offered, and I attended, a short seminar on what they called “An Introduction to Contemplative Prayer.” I could not even pronounce the word “contemplative” at the time, but the concept took root and has become a significant part of my spiritual life. In contemplative prayer, we simply sit in silence with God, allowing the Holy Spirit to do whatever subconscious mental processing is needed. I like to say that we are silent so that God can speak in the space between our thoughts. It is recommended that one do two thirty-minute sessions of contemplative prayer each day.
“But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, and when you have shut
your door, pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:6)
The third form of prayer is what I call “community” prayer. Most of us already experience this each Sunday when we gather for worship. We also do it when for example, we pray within our own families. Praying with other like-minded believers is an essential part of living as a Christian. It has become increasingly so to me. Over the years, I have evolved to the point that I now meet in community with a group of believers at 0730 each morning during the week to pray, read scripture, receive a short sermon, and invite Jesus to live in and control my life during the coming day. It is a powerful practice and only takes 30-45 minutes.
These three forms of prayer (contemplative, community, and conversational) seem to intertwine in some sort of overlapping manner. Each is good in its own right. However, the discipline of routinely doing all three seems to produce better results.
What “tools” are in your personal Christian toolbox? How deliberate is your Bible study? In what ways have you learned to care for and be kind to others? Do you have a Spiritual Advisor? Do you seek to follow practical disciplines such as silence, solitude, simplicity, or service? Is the practice of kindness a conscious behavior? Think about that; then, let us proficiently use each appropriate tool in a way that draws us closer to God and one another!