This weekend we continue our series on Ancient Practices. God is calling his people back to the "ancient paths" and one of those is discipleship. Disciples are those who have been captured by the love of Jesus and who have responded by surrendering their lives to his loving leadership. Their goal is to be like him – in the attitudes, their actions, and their life mission. Becoming like Jesus is a process and a partnership. It includes the Holy Spirit, life's circumstances, and spiritual practices.
Spiritual practices are exercises that disciples engage in to train themselves to be like Jesus. As apprentices to Jesus, they realise that they have entered a life of training, not just trying. Salvation is by grace not by our own works. We cannot earn God's love. Grace is opposed to earning … but not to effort. Disciples are "disciplined ones" who discipline their life around activities that position them to experience life transformation.
One of the most important spiritual practices is constant prayer. "Constant" means continual and "prayer" means conversation with God. Only as disciples are continually connected to Jesus will they develop the closeness they desire and live fruitful lives. Jesus put it this way when teaching his first disciples …
Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. [John 15:4-5. NLT]
There are different "abiding styles" and it is important to discover how God has wired us uniquely to connect with him. We know that God is with us at all times (his "omni-presence") but we all long for those special times when we are aware of his presence in a tangible way.
Each one of us are at a different place in our journey as disciples. Some are seeking, others are just beginning, others are growing, while others have matured over many years. Whatever stage we are at, sometimes we become stalled or even dissatisfied. At these times, we may need help from others or our spiritual hunger can drive us to seek God with greater passion.
Here are some recommended resources for those desiring to grow in various aspects of the spiritual practice of constant prayer:
Too Busy Not to Pray by Bill Hybels
Power through Prayer by E.M. Bounds
The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence
Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala
How to Pray by Elmer Towns
The Beauty of Spiritual Language by Jack Hayford
The Only Necessary Thing by Henri Nouwen
Praying with Power by Peter Wagner
Prayer: Invading the Impossible by Jack Harford
Ignatian Spirituality Web Site, including the Prayer of Examen
In Constant Prayer by Robert Benson
Hearing God's Voice
Hearing God by Dallas Willard
Listening to God by Joyce Huggett
Dialogue with God by Mark Virkler
Surprised by the Voice of God by Jack Deere
The Power of a Whisper by Bill Hybels
Click here for a small group discussion on "Constant Prayer" by Gurmit Gill, one of our pastors and teaching team members. Click here to visit our sermon library where you can listen to this message or search for other messages on prayer.
May each one of us grow in our love for Jesus, evidenced by a more regular connection with him throughout each day of our lives. What a difference that could make!