Tuesday, January 01, 2019

A Spiritual Life Without Discipline Is impossible

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Bozeman, Montana
For Christmas I received a gift of a book I have wanted to read - Mere Spirituality: The Spiritual Life According to Henri Nouwen, by Wil Hernandez. No Christian author writing on spiritual formation and transformation has influenced me more than Nouwen.

Nouwen deeply informs my praying life. Years ago I chose to find solitary places to meet with God. I disciplined myself to do this, much in the same way I disciplined myself to practice the guitar. In those solitary places God began to speak to me. I write about what I discovered in my book Praying.

Nouwen wrote, "A spiritual life without discipline is impossible. The spiritual life demands a discipline of the heart to assist us to let God into our hearts and become known to us there, in the deepest recesses of our own being." (Hernandez, xx)

I am a disciple of Christ. Just as, for a long period of my life, I was a disciple of the guitar. I disciplined myself to practice. The result was an increase in ability and capacity. Spiritual discipline is like this. It is "the concentrated effort to create some inner and outer space in our lives where obedience can be practiced." (Ib. See also Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines. I will explain this in my own words in a book I am now writing, tentatively called Transformation: How God Changes the Human Heart.)

I don't wait for the desire to pray. I pray because I am called, by God, to meet with him and pray. The effect in me, over time, is the increase of desire to pray.

In the Gospels we read that Jesus went to lonely places to meet with the Father and pray. I am a follower of Jesus. He is my exemplar. Therefore, I spend time in what I call the
place of least distraction" and meet with God and pray. I place my physical body and my spiritual self in a space where I can listen and see and feel the presence of God. 

Praying is, arguably, the main way we live like branches attached to the true Vine, who is Jesus. I have learned to do those things that attach me, so God can do in me those things I cannot do for myself and others.

I'm writing these words in the morning of a new year. Why not make this year a time of greater attachment to Jesus? The odds of this happening increase if you begin today. 

I bless you with a discipline towards Christ that furthers the transformation Christ will produce in you!