“’Even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.’ Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love...” Joel 2:12-14
As we approach Lent, I often hear from many people, “I just don’t have time to pray,” or “I am too busy to really have a consistent life of prayer.” Others say “somehow I get stuck reading the Bible or praying for people, my mind just drifts away.” There are many other responses to the difficulty of prayer and the reason to pray. So I asked some friends what is the first thing you do in the morning? (This is not a Gallup survey.) They report immediately picking up their iPad or phone and “checking in.” Their day is now consumed with new texts, appointments, emails, news, and a bevy of things that pop up on their phone.
A life of distraction, connecting, and planning for the next event can take over one’s life. Yes, I too need to put down these devices in order to maintain some sort of legitimate spiritual life-- a life in which my heart desires beauty, love, reconciliation, and communion with Christ.
In our world today where everything is acceptable but nothing is forgivable, we need to take our life of prayer seriously in hopes that we, too, might be a beacon of hope and love for those who are suffering.
During a recent conversation with my dear friend and mentor of 45 years, Father William Wilson, we were talking about our own life of the spirit and our life of prayer. He suggested the following ways to help us all maintain a steadfast and purposeful life in the Spirit.
SPIRITUAL HEALTH CHECK LIST from Father William: Here are ten disciplines that produce and accompany good heath in one’s spirit, and they are also conducive to good physical health! Give yourself a grade on your habits from “0” (meaning you no habit at all) to “10” (meaning you engage fully in the habit). Then ask the Spirit to help you to grow, especially in the areas of greater weakness. (This list presupposes you belong to a worship community/church.)
TEN HABITS OF A HEALTHY SPIRITUAL LIFE
1. Getting good/sufficient sleep, healthful eating, and personally appropriate exercise.
2. Reading/meditating on Holy Scripture for at least of fifteen minutes a day.
3. Daily practice, at least ten minutes, of silent contemplative prayer.
4. A habit of frequently calling upon God briefly during the day.
5. Continual conscious practice of discernment of your thoughts and impulses.
6. Weekly (or monthly) visit with a trusted Christian friend for spiritual counsel.
7. At least weekly fellowship with friend(s) to share your life in Christ.
8. Times of Silent Retreat during the year for spiritual rest and renewal.
9. Some form of continuing study of Christian faith (via books, lectures, courses).
10. Nurturing your love relationships as your foremost mission from Christ in the world.
As we approach the season of Lent, this list is refreshing what I know to be true, and giving me ways I might refocus my heart, my goals, and my time. Together, let us seek Him for whom our soul longs.
With gratitude for your friendship and support,