The desire to improve and to grow is innate in many of us. As we kick-start the New Year, many of us would have had made resolutions (whether consciously or not) to self-improve, grow and change some aspects of our lives for the better, be it to exercise, eat better, study harder etc.
What about spiritual habits such as prayer and reading the Word? Do any of you find it challenging and not-so-natural to develop/build them into the routine of your life? You are not alone.
Developing (good) spiritual habits is no different from developing any other habit we have formed over the course of our lives – it requires time and work. A habit is an acquired behavioral pattern formed by repetition. We are all creatures of habits and are shaped by them. As such, every routine and repetition has a formative effect on our being and how we then develop as a person.
Now take that and apply it to Christian discipleship and you will find that spiritual habits, if cultivated properly can enhance and add a lot to our spiritual walk and experience of God, His living Word and presence in our lives.
As we embark on the New Year, here are some things we can turn our minds to and work on in the course of developing new (good) spiritual habits together.
The Lord’s Prayer invites us to a posture of openness before God as our Father. Before undertaking anything in the name of discipleship and being a “good” Christian, know firstly that your Heavenly Father calls you and accepts you as His by sheer love and acceptance and not your works (Galatians 2:15 -21). Find that orientation in your heart in response to this truth, and you will find a different motivation to develop and build good spiritual habits in your life.
We start each New Year with a resolve to better ourselves – there is an intuitive desire to be “better”, to improve, to change and to achieve our goals. It’s as though somewhere in every person is a deep conscience that directs that they should be living a “certain” way. How often do we beat ourselves up and feel like we can do better and that we should be better. But how much of it is driven by a different motivation, whether it is fear, the world around us or just us and our self-centred desires?
The gospel, however, compels us without guilt or shame. Instead, it gives us a new motivation by renewing us from the inside out, such that we desire change, growth and maturity. Not simply for ourselves, but for the good works that God invites us to partake with Him for the sake of others and this world we live in.
How can we be a solution for the sake of others and this world? We are currently undergoing a 12-day churchwide fast and prayer to seek God on this. Join us in the journey with this 12-day devotional.
3. Small, incremental change and repetition
Points 1 and 2 do require time and deep reflection for God and the Spirit to work in us. But there is nothing more beautiful and fulfilling than a deeply Christ-changed life consistent with our outward set of actions and virtue.
So if we are able to position our hearts accordingly and are willing for God to sift through our motivations, what practical steps can be taken to then build good spiritual habits in our day-to-day lives?
One of the best advices I have heard is “just start doing something”. While seemingly elementary, this is fundamental because we often easily complicate things and neglect the necessary building blocks to help us move forward effectively.
Set realistic and achievable goals. There is nothing worst than constantly feeling subpar for failing to hit the mark because we have set such high, lofty goals that are unrealistic. Have an honest assessment of yourself, your priorities and schedule.
Make tangible and attainable goals that you can genuinely commit to and do not underestimate the impact of the sense of pride and accomplishment that comes from being able to stick to and complete something.
For example, before starting your busy day, you may consider sparing 15-30 minutes to read a passage from your Bible daily while having breakfast, because that is the most optimum time frame for you in a given day.
Once you have some “wins” under your belt, keep at it and repeat and eventually, you will hopefully find the practice a natural part of your daily life.
4. Find someone to do it with.
As alluded above, there are no short cuts and developing good spiritual habits require time, work and a healthy dose of accountability. However, it need not be burdensome and tedious and hopefully each of us, by His Spirit and grace will find the deep joy and motivation to build these spiritual habits into our lives.
Finally, in order to help us, there is no greater blessing than to have a community around us that can hold us accountable and help us develop these spiritual habits together, be it in prayer or opening up the Word together.