My Spiritual Formation Journey (part 3)

March 24, 2012

The attitudes and practices that guide my spiritual life are simple but necessary.

Prayer and Spiritual Formation
The main spiritual practice is my quiet time in the morning with God. That time usually happens for about an hour from 4:00 AM to 5:00 AM. During that time, I journal down my thoughts and experiences from the previous day. Then I take some time to read large chunks of my Bible. Then I pray to God by talking with Him verbally and by writing down my payers in my journal. I first encountered the idea of reading large chunks of the Bible during prayer time while reading a biography on Billy Graham. The biography described how Billy often spends large chunks of time in the morning and the evening reading his Bible as part of prayer time. Reading large chunks of the Bible is his way of staying connected with God and staying familiar with who God is by reading His story.[1]  Reading large chunks of the Bible as part of my quiet time has been very beneficial to me and my spiritual life and my prayer time.

This course has helped to shape me to no longer see prayer as something that I do only in the morning before I go out to do my work during the day on my own. Many of Thomas Merton’s writings about being in “constant communication” with God have helped me to realize that I can do that and that I can stay in His will by doing that. And that communication with God can be as simple as thanking him for an answered prayer, to praying I will be Christ-like in a conflict I know I need to create, or a prayer for safety while riding snow mobiles in Alaska.

Merton’s writings have encouraged me to learn that solitude is a good thing. I have always enjoyed solitude and know that I connect with God best in silence best. Merton’s writings have taken this belief to a new level. When he writes, “What more do I seek than this silence, this simplicity, this ‘living together with wisdom.’? For me there is nothing else. It is the pinnacle. . . Solitude really means: when the ropes are cast off and the skiff is no longer tied to land but heads out to sea without any ties, without restraints!”[2] Solitude helps me to feel centered, to quiet my mind and to focus on God. It allows me to be reminded of who God is and who he wants me to be. Staying centered in my spiritual life is absolutely critical to doing what God has called me to do. How can I say I serve God if I do not regularly spend time with him? As Merton explains, our time with God is:

“given to me by God that I may live in it. It is not given to make something out of it but given to be stored away in eternity as my own. For this afternoon to be my own eternity, it must be my own this afternoon, and I must possess myself in it, not be possessed by books, by ideas not my own, by a compulsion to produce what nobody needs. But simply to glorify God by accepting His gift and His work. To work for Him is to work that I myself may live.”[3]

That time that I have in the morning with God is not my own. It is God’s and I am not supposed to make anything of it, but just rest and relax in it.

Another spiritual practice that I can do regularly to keep me spiritually centered are retreats. Retreats can simply be an extra day off over a three-day weekend, or a camping trip, or a long vacation like I just enjoyed over Christmas for 11 days in Alaska. Fernando explains how I feel sometimes that as ministers “we are so rushed that we do not think straight because we do not have time to think reflectively. . . . We need to slow down! Retreats help us do this.”[4] Retreats help to refresh me, give me alone time of solitude, and rejuvenate my passion for work for God. I notice that my strength of character comes back after retreats, that I feel more determined, less likely to be derailed, and that I have a greater strength to confront others who oppose me. When I come back to normal life after retreats it feels that God has been doing some good work in me even though I was not doing His work. Because I took a retreat from doing His work it gave Him the room to do work inside of me.

Another practice that guides me in my spiritual formation is regularly meeting with my coach and mentor, Steve Elliott. He has given me great insight and great wisdom when I have needed it. When Steve and I meet, I ask him questions, he coaches me through difficult situations I am in, and he teaches me about the Bible.

Question: What are the spiritual (or non-spiritual) practices that help you to feel centered?

[1] John Pullock, Billy Graham: Evangelist to the World, (San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1979), 147-148.

[2] Thomas Merton, “Dancing in the Water of Life: The Journals of Thomas Merton, Volume 5,” ed. Robert E. Daggy, (1998): 235-236, quoted in Jonathan Montaldo and Robert Toth, Bridges to Contemplative Living: Volume 5, Traveling Your Road to Joy Bridges to Contemplative Living (Notre Dame, IN: Ava Maria Press, 2006), 30.

[3] Thomas Merton, “A Search for Solitude: The Journals of Thomas Merton, Volume 3,” ed. Lawrence S. Cunningham, (1996): 214-215, 219, quoted in Jonathan Montaldo and Robert Toth, Bridges to Contemplative Living: Volume 5, Traveling Your Road to Joy Bridges to Contemplative Living (Notre Dame, IN: Ava Maria Press, 2006), 17.

[4] Ajith Fernando, Jesus Driven Ministry (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2002), 65.

Christopher L. Scott

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Christopher Scott is Small Groups Pastor at Rocky Hilly Community Church in Exeter, CA. He has more than ten years of experience leading volunteers, running nonprofit programs, and teaching the Bible in small group settings. He holds a bachelor's degree from Fresno Pacific University and master's degree from Dallas Theological Seminary.

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