Below you will find five exercises that will help in undrestanding and practicing the Discipline of Study. These were orginally posted for Midwest City Community Church for their "D" Word series in 2014.
-Determine that you will study a complete book of the bible at some point this week. Remember the 4 elements of study: Repetition- Read the passage over several times to let it soak in; Concentration- Centering the mind on the subject matter; Comprehension- Understanding what is being said; and Reflection- understanding the significance of what is being said. A good place to start might be reading the gospel of John all the way through. Here is a great audio resource for the Gospel of John. It is read by Roger Hahn who is an Nazarene Theological Seminary professor.
Studying Christian Literature
There are a number of classic books that have helped Christians experience God in a new way throughout the years. Pick up one of the following books and read through it: The Confessions of Saint Augustine; The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis; Mere Christianity by CS Lewis, The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence, or The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoffer.
Studying Artwork or Music
Artwork and music are powerful ways that we express ourselves as humans. Take some time to visit an art museum or engage in some new music. Use the four elements of study: Repetition, Concentration, Comprehension, and Reflection as you look at the artwork or listen to the music. What does it say about God and his world?
Study Your Own Life
Spend some of the week being aware of your own actions and motives. It is uncanny how often we tend to feel the need to justify our actions or command attention. As you interact with people, examine your motives and your conversations. It can also be helpful to ask a close friend to answer questions like, “How am I responding in this situation?” (But only if you want to hear truth!) It is important that we have a realistic understanding of ourselves as we seek to follow Christ.
Combine the Disciplines
Spend some time alone meditating on scripture and the things you have been studying this week. Or take some time to study nature and the interactions of all the different animals and creatures. Study your own emotions and behavior as you fast. Remember that the disciplines are meant to work together!
"And in the morning, a great while before day, he rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed." Mark 1:35 Prayer is a life style that is exhibited by Jesus. Prayer is meant to be central in our faith walks. It is not some rote activity we engage in. We need to constantly remember that "To Pray is to Change" (Foster, Celebration of Discipline)
1. Simply Pray
So often prayer seems overwhelming and complicated. It doesn't need to be. Prayer is about approaching God. We do not need to be perfect or know the exact words. "In the same way that a small child cannot draw a bad picture so a child of God cannot offer a bad prayer." (Foster, Prayer) Today simply pray. No matter what it is approach God today and talk to Him.
2. A Journal
I will stand at my watchpost,
and station myself on the rampart;
I will keep watch to see what he will say to me,
and what he will answer concerning my complaint.
2 Then the Lord answered me and said:
Write the vision;
make it plain on tablets,
so that a runner may read it.
Have you ever written down your prayers? Start today. There is something about seeing ink on paper. Split your notebook down the middle. On the right side of the page write your prayer and on the left side come back when you see God moving on that prayer. and record it.
3. All Alone
Its okay to be alone. So many of us are fearful of quiet. Going back to last week and the practice of meditation sometimes it is important to remove ourselves from all distractions. Check out Luke 5:16 and Mark 1:35. Jesus prayed alone. So should we. Did you start your journal? Now would be a great time to take it with you and record your prayers.
Just because we have to pray alone doesn't mean we shouldn't pray together as well. Read Luke 9:28 and Acts 1:14. Prayer is meant to be a corporate activity as well as personal. Do you have a prayer partner? Find one today. Also, if you prayed for someone today, let them know.
5. Pray without Ceasing
Nate Cook from Midwest City Community Nazarene wrote the following "Use everyday occurrences as opportunities for prayer. As you encounter people during your daily routine, say a prayer for them and their family. Pray for your children even when they don't know you are praying for them. Maybe when they are asleep, or just hanging around the house. Send up quick prayers all throughout the day. Don't forget that we have the privilege and the responsibility to pray for people!
Is your world filled with noise, busyness, and stress? You are not alone. Most of our lives are lived at a frantic pace. Scripture has revealed to us that maybe we should slow down for a bit and discover God in the deafening sound of silence. Elijah heard from God in the still, small voice. Below you will find a few practical applications to use in the practice of Christian Meditation.
1. "Hearing and Obeying"
Richard Foster says in his book The Celebration of Discipline "Christian Meditation, very simply, is the ability to hear God's voice and obey his word. It is that simple." If it was really that simple why am I not good at it? Why doesn't it come naturally? Today, find a few moments (strive for five minutes) to sit and enjoy the presence of the Lord. Simply be. Psalm 46:10.
2. A Heart Verse
Do you have a favorite verse? Can you recite it? If so today find a few more moments to reflect on that verse. Don't think about the original language or the context in which it was written. Let the verse ruminate in your head and feel it flow down to your soul as truth. Let it rest there as God does the work of imprinting it on your heart. If you need a prompt, let Galatians 2:20 heart.
3. Time and Place
Have you asked the questions, "When and Where should I meditate?" In a perfect situation we would find ourselves meditating and communing with God constantly during every aspect of our day. However, whose life is perfect? So finding moments and being diligent in protecting those times can add in the slowing down of our lives so that we can learn what it means to have a moment of inner silence. As for a place, any where will do. It would be helpful if it was free of distraction and not somewhere often associated with stress or negative emotions. Find your when and where today. There are no wrong answers. Genesis 24:63 (Issac meditated in the evening, in a field)
5. Mt. Everest of the soul.
Shouldn't this be getting easier by now? Mediation is not something that you will instantly be able to accomplish. It takes practice. It takes persistence. It takes patience. "There is a progression in the spiritual life, and it is wise to have some experience with lesser peaks before trying to tackle the Mt. Everest of the soul." (Foster, Celebration of Discipline) Keep going. Try again today. Find a time, a space and a posture to hear from the Lord. Jeremiah 20:9