How to Practice Rhythms of Spiritual Formation
Updated: May 2, 2022
Some people will tell you that prayer is a conversation with God. Others will say that it's an opportunity to listen to God. Still others will describe it as a way to share burdens with God. And chances are that there are plenty of other ways to conceptualize this action—but while they may not all be wrong, they're also not mutually exclusive. You can pray in many different ways by yourself or with others (if you'd like a few ideas, start here), and whatever form your practice takes, it should probably include some of the following:
Expressing gratitude for what one has received
Sharing needs and wants for oneself, others, and the world
Inviting God into one's life
It's hard to know where to begin with Scripture reading, isn't it? It's been said that there are more translations of the Bible than there are the original languages the Bible was written in! This can be overwhelming, but don't despair: your local bookstore or library will probably have a list of trusted translations available. If you're looking for a straightforward and readable version, consider one of these:
The New International Version (NIV)
The English Standard Version (ESV)
The New Living Translation (NLT)
Or, if you prefer something a little more poetic and traditional, take a look at one of these:
The King James Version (KJV)
The American Standard Version (ASV)
Young's Literal Translation (YLT).
Nurturing a Sabbath rhythm
There are rhythms of spiritual formation that are essential for every Christian. One of these rhythms is the Sabbath.
Sabbath can be defined as a special day where we take time to rest and reflect on God. We all need rest, but because of our desire to accomplish things, we often don't take time to rest at all or even see it as something desirable. If you want to practice fulfilling your calling in life, then nurturing a Sabbath rhythm is crucial!
How do you nurture a Sabbath rhythm? The first step is to block out time for rest. Most people have more control over their weekends than over their work days, so starting with a Saturday or Sunday would be the natural choice for many people. You can also choose to make other days your Sabbath if you have more control over those days (just make sure that this is not an excuse for avoiding Sunday worship).
The next step is deciding what exactly you will do with this time. During your designated Sabbath time, avoid activities that require significant amounts of energy and brainpower. Take advantage of this opportunity to get some much-needed rest! Additionally, spend some intentional time with God during your Sabbath by reading the Bible (we suggest the Psalms) and praying (which could just be talking with God about anything that's on your mind). You'll be surprised how much better you feel after doing these two simple things!
Not only does a day of rest help us replenish ourselves physically and mentally, but it also helps build up our relationship with God. When we spend intentional quiet time with Him reading His Word and speaking with Him through prayer, we allow ourselves an opportunity to hear from Him in ways that aren't possible amidst our busy schedules throughout the week that are filled with constant noise and activity. If you want to practice fulfilling your calling in life, then nurturing a Sabbath rhythm is crucial!
Often when we think of service, we think of big acts of sacrifice. But really, there are many little ways to serve others. These can include the following:
Be with others
Do for others
Be a neighbor
Be a friend
Be a servant through daily acts of kindness and mercy
Be a radical follower of Jesus Christ who radically follows Jesus Christ in all things
Worship (including Holy Communion)
Worship: Paul writes in Romans 12:2 that we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Renewing our minds involves reframing the way we think about ourselves and others, with renewed faith and hope. Worship is a way that God transforms us by giving us a new perspective, one centered on God's grace, justice, compassion and love for the world. It has the potential to expand our consciousness because, as James K.A. Smith says,"we are who we worship."
Worship is also a way of encountering God's presence when it seems distant or like a far-off reality. When you find yourself alone on Friday night or locked in your cubicle at work on Monday morning, worship can be an anchor for spiritual practice by bringing you back into presence with God in prayer and song (and occasionally dance).
Ultimately, worship is a means of being sent into the world as ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20). It is not merely a performance to be consumed passively but rather an invitation to participate in the transformation of our relationships with others—with whomever you share meals and space with at home—in light of what you've discovered and experienced through worship.
So how does practicing hospitality in our churches and homes relate to the themes of this book? Let's look at a few things that we can do in our interactions with those around us.
Practice Hospitality to the Stranger: When I get a chance to be about, I like to use my phone as a way to make random people feel welcome (and hopefully return some hospitality). This is something that we can all do in our everyday interactions. If you see someone new, think of an opening line that could either start a conversation or send someone off on their way. If you're out and about, look for this person first before anyone else and offer them your seat or doors before looking to anyone else.
Practice Hospitality with the Outcast: Sometimes it's difficult for us Christians (or others) not only to be hospitable toward an outcast/different one but also welcoming toward those who are angry. It may be hard for us believers because we have been taught so often how anger is not God's will and how much better it is when love reigns supreme. But what if one of these people was actually part of your family? What if they were your brother? Your cousin? Your neighbor? How would you respond then if they became angry with you? Would you find yourself making excuses not just for them but also for their anger because knowing they're struggling might make you feel slightly guilty despite what God calls us to do? Would this kind of thing sting just as bad as being marginalized by others? As Christians, we need to always remember that God never wants His children—or any child of Him—to feel unwanted. He desires that everyone have a place in His Kingdom; there's nothing wrong with being different than most people or being looked down upon by some other group of people, but these feelings shouldn't stop us from loving others unconditionally or from doing everything within our power so that both the outsider and ourselves can experience healing from these hurts.
Spiritual direction is not the same as mentoring—but it does include mentoring. Mentoring has been around for a long time, but in recent years it's become a popular buzzword both inside and outside of church circles. Mentoring can happen anywhere, but it often takes place within specific organizations. At times, such organizations will have an official mentor-mentee relationship between mentors and mentees that they formally establish. Many times, however, these relationships are informal—a more experienced person simply offering advice or encouragement to a newer person who is interested in learning from that person's example.
The main difference between spiritual direction (discussed above) and mentoring is that spiritual direction is primarily about listening to God and responding to whatever he reveals (through scripture or otherwise), whereas mentoring tends to be more focused on doing certain things so that you can learn how to do them well over time. Mentors see their role as helping teach the student something useful for life in general or work specifically; spiritual directors see their role as helping someone hear God speak and then hold him accountable for responding appropriately. Mentors may offer advice on how best to go about doing whatever your job entails; spiritual directors listen with you for what God is saying (or might be saying) in light of your situation at work and help you respond accordingly.