*This is a bit of a long read, a 3 part series, however please trust me that it is worth it.
On July 31st, 2016 – I preached sermon at Blue Point Bible Church (www.bluepointbiblechurch.org) about living an “eternal fulfilled life”. You can listen to that podcast at the following link, http://www.buzzsprout.com/11630/406513-beingchristian-eternal-life-in-jesus-christ
In that message my point was that “eternal life” as provided through Jesus Christ (John 17:3) is more about living a fulfilled life now, than it is about obsession over what will happen when we biologically die. Now, that is not based on an ignorance or an avoidance of the death, despair, and devastation that we see running rampant in our world. Instead, by the renewing of our minds (cf. Romans 12:1-2), and the use of Spiritual disciplines we can truly maximize our experience of this life, and that according to my understanding is truly living life. This is based on two points I regularly bring up:
Jesus Christ said, “The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy. I come that you may have life, and life to the full”.
John Piper, a famous preached remarked, “God is most glorified when you are most satisfied in Him”.
It’s fair to say that my “Christian walk” has been a search for the life that Christ promised, and the satisfaction in Him that brings the utmost glory to a glorious God. So…..
This past week, I did about 10 years review, in looking back at “spiritual disciplines” I worked through to better maximize on my life in Christ. The rest of this blog will be my sharing those details with you.
It’s been said, “Our character is a composite of our habits”. So I ask you at the outset of this blog, what are your habits? God willing, you will look through some of these details and turn them into habits.
First and foremost, without being “legalistic” I want to share with you a system I have put into my life. I make sure that my waking thoughts belong to God (I will share my favorite Bonhoeffer quote in that regard in a moment), and many times this is fostered by going through the Book of Common Prayer. I like the radical one put together by Shane Claiborne and some others. You can either purchase it, or use it online at your own convenience. Here is a link, http://commonprayer.net/
Also, ever since I became a Christian I have written down most, almost all, of my thoughts and studies throughout time. This was taught to me early on in my walk, as one brother encouraged me with the following quote to record my dreams:
“The Father gave men dreams to help them see the door to His dwelling place. He will only dwell in the hearts of His people, and dreams can be a door to the heart…that is why His angels so often appear to men in their dreams – they can bypass the fallen mind of man and go straight to the heart”.
So yes, I have collected some of the strangest dreams, however also I have collected topical as well as contextual studies, reviews of books I have read, and so much more. I cannot stress enough the value of this, and would love to encourage you to do the same.
Being somewhat inquisitive and curious has surely blessed me. I am of the belief that not every type of “spiritual exercise” is beneficial to all, therefore you must mine the traditions and be a bit creative to see what works best for you. Again remember, this is about you finding satisfaction so that God can be glorified through your life. That being so, I have obsessed over traditions that others have done, disciplines that have worked for the few, etc.
Let’s consider some aspects of prayer.
I have currently been working getting “fit for the summer” by going through an Ignatian Workout on my podcasted radio show – Miano Gone Wild. Visit the following link to access the 4-5 podcasts on Ignatian Spirituality – www.mianogonewild.com
Fixed -hour prayer has always been something I have obsessed about. They sometimes call it “praying the divine hours”. John Calvin said it best, “Unless we fix certain hours in the day for prayer, it easily slips our memory”. Two aspects of Jewish prayer, which seems to be evident in the life of Christ, that stand out to me are the fact that they prayed toward the Temple, utilizing various postures, and they had times (cf. Daniel 6:10; Psalm 55:17). The early Christians developed the following prayer schedule:
Lauds – 3AM
Prime – 6AM
Terce – 9AM
Sext – 12PM
None – 3PM
Vespers – 6PM
Compline – 9PM
Vigil – 12AM
Whenever I think of praying at 12AM, I am reminded of the ‘night watchers’ who took literally the words of Psalms 63:6 and 119:148. Also, concerning posture, I am a “bow before my King” type of prayer warrior, and for those of you who know me, you know I can become quite “charismatic” in my prayer life. Isaac the Syrian seems to have said it best, “Someone who shows a reverential posture during prayer, by stretching our his hands to heaven as he stands, or by falling on his face toward the ground will be accounted worthy of much grace from on high as a result of these lowly actions”.
Every Sunday I invite our congregation at Blue Point Bible Church to participate in a time of “Corporate Praise & Prayer”, and I always mention how this is your personal time with God, to be expressed in a manner you feel edified. Consider the traditions of the ancients, from the Vigil of the Cross (where Catholics get the sign of the cross from), to pacing and praying, pilgrimage, to praying Scriptures or sitting in utter solitude and silence. Some other favorites I have picked up on are Theology of Tears, which was a method of Isaac the Syrian. He said, “The fruits of the inner man begin with the shedding of tears” and he based this on Psalm 126:5. Also the famous “Jesus Prayer” which is constantly recited by the Greek Orthodox believers, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner” based on Luke 18:30 and 1 Corinthians 14:19. And of course, Cyprian of Carthage would have us understand that every good Christian prays the Lord’s Prayer (Our Father) atleast 3 times a day. 🙂
A couple years back I participated in an exercise in which I immersed myself into 4 different traditions to see what I could glean – Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Amish, and Monasticism. I have many blogs, and I could go on and on regarding all that I learned during that time, however I would rather urge you to be creative in these regards.
Some last thoughts I would share would be the importance of Contemplative prayer, which simply means to meditate on God’s Word as often as possible, and give is primacy in your day. Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer said it in this manner, “Therefore, at the beginning of the day let all distraction and empty talk be silenced and first words belong to Him who our whole life belongs (Psalm 127:2)”. Also, recording your prayers has so much value – you can truly see answered prayer, and find further appreciation for all that God has done in your life. I cannot stress that value enough.
Keep your eye out for Part 2, in which we will detail “Eternal Life” and the study as well as observation of the Scriptures.
May you find satisfaction in prayer, and may He be glorified through your prayer life.
In Service to Him,
Pastor Michael Miano