I’ve written soul is to depth as spirit is to height, so the work of spiritual practice, discipline and development focuses on prayer and study. Or rather, it begins in prayer and study.
I am taking a call from Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew for the guiding scripture of this facet of life:
‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”Matthew 11:28
I am rather happy with my spiritual practices right now, when I do them. I have to find time for dedicated Bible study every day–so I usually get up very early during the week. I have to set down my work or walk away from projects to pray the hours–and it helps me reset my focus and embrace my joy in a greater world. And I find myself more tired–maybe from getting up so early–but I think it is because of the intentional use of energy, of time and effort and presence–and it makes rest deeper and more serene.
Goal #1: Complete Study on 1 & 2 Corinthians
I assure you, there will be posts about this ridiculous project and when they are, I will link to them–at least the first one. In 2020, I decided I was going to deep-study 1 Corinthians. I read three commentaries–from the Interpretation Series, New Interpreters Bible Commentary, and from the New International Commentary on the New Testament–in conjunction with the scripture. I took copious notes, and filled a binder. Finished in early December 2020, and this year, I am doing the same for 2 Corinthians (with four commentaries) and going through a couple of additional commentaries on 1 Corinthians, because I really like that letter, y’all.
I will study five times a week, for approximately thirty minutes in each sitting. It takes about four weeks to get through a chapter, but that timing was for 1 Corinthians, and I didn’t really start on the project until May, so my stamina has improved.
Goal #2: Practice Prayer Five Times a Day
I heard Adam Hamilton speak in Dallas, and he asked why Christians can’t pray five times a day like our Muslim siblings. That cut deeply. I then read Seven by Jen Hatmaker, and she went on and on about Seven Sacred Pauses by Macrina Weiderkehr, which I bought and loved and used. With that, and then all of Phyllis Tickle’s The Divine Hours, I’ve developed a rhythm of prayer: lauds in the morning, midday prayer, vespers at the end of the workday, and compline at night. I read five Psalms in the morning (most days), and have a time of intercessory prayer in the afternoon. If I am awake enough when taking out the little dogs with little bladders in the middle of the night, I pray vigils. So there are seven opportunities! And I think meeting five is doable and a little challenging. I track this in my Blue Book.
Goal #3: Engage with Hafiz as a daily devotional.
I like the Persian Sufi Mystics. I started with Rumi, whom I still adore, and now, I have Daniel Ladinsky’s A Year with Hafiz and it’s weird and wonderful and a reminder to start my day intentionally and thoughtfully. And I need a joyful poet, especially in the mornings, especially in a challenging year.
All of these are pretty much, “I did this, or I did not,” but spiritual maintenance is not just about tucking away in some corner to think, write, pray, reflect. This work fuels the rest of what I do in my life. I’m more peaceful, and better able to listen, when I’ve prayed consistently. I am charged up by having time to study in the mornings, more so than when I sleep for another fitful hour and regret it. I need the rhythm of compline at night to process and give thanks for the day. Maybe you do, too. What’s your favorite prayer practice, or way of strengthening your spiritual core?