The following post was written by Andrew Jacobson in 2014 as part of a discipleship blog series. We are revisiting these topics in our current sermon series and publishing his writings here with his permission.
The fourth component of our Discipleship Vision is Prayer-Devoted. Our goal in this area of discipleship is that we want everyone at First Free to be depending on God in everything through a deep devotion to prayer, and seeking to deepen their personal relationship with God in daily prayer and practice of the various spiritual disciplines. First and foremost we want to be and nurture people who make prayer their lifeline because we realize how needy we are and how Almighty God is. There is always the danger in the Christian life of either becoming spiritually self-reliant or spiritually apathetic. We believe that the solution to this is to constantly be drawing us back to the Throne of Grace where we meet with the One who can meet all our needs. We want to exemplify and help everyone grasp the reality of Jesus’ words that “apart from Him we can do nothing” (John 15:5).
Lest we think that prayer is just for bringing our shopping list of needs before God, we need to be reminded that Jesus taught us to pray by starting with “Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be Your Name” (Matthew 6:3). This means that the priority of our prayers should not just be asking for things but adoring God. He is worthy of all the praise, honor, and glory and we should come to Him with lips of praise. This is so essential for our corporate discipleship because when we take our eyes off of God’s grandeur we become distracted and tempted by a thousand lesser things. But when our hearts are lifted up toward God and we can say with our mouths, “Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides You” (Psalm 73:25), it is then that we realize we only truly need one thing: “to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord” (Psalm 27:4). That is essentially what prayer is: gazing upon the beauty of the Lord and praising God for the beauty that we see.
Along with prayer we want to also utilize what is commonly known as the “spiritual disciplines” of the Christian life. These disciplines are so essential to understand and utilize because God has given them to us as means by which we can grow in Christlikeness. For example, we should utilize the spiritual discipline of fasting so that we can temporarily cut off our addiction to daily things and take focused time to read our Bibles and pray to our Father. We should spend time memorizing Scripture so that we can hide God’s word in our heart that we might not sin against Him (Psalm 119:11). Furthermore, we should take time to sing substantive songs of praise as a way to express our affection and adoration of God. This is just a small sampling of the practical spiritual disciplines that ought to be utilized regularly and some even daily so that we nourish our souls with the spiritual nutrients it needs to be healthy.
These disciplines don’t possess within themselves some mystical power to make us super Christians. Rather these disciplines help drive us toward God whose grace alone helps us overcome sin and grow in godliness. We don’t want people to walk around with constant guilt thinking that they don’t do enough “Christian” things. But we want people to know practical disciplines that they can implement into their daily life that can help them focus on and become more like Christ.
In order to think, learn, and grow in the areas of prayer and spiritual disciplines consider some of these practical helps:
- Joining in on one of the weekly prayer gatherings that meet at Church on Wednesday night, Sunday morning, and Sunday night.
- Listen to the sermon Intimacy with the Almighty
- Stop in the church library and check out a book on prayer or the spiritual disciplines. I would highly recommend starting with Donald Whitney’s book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life or John Piper’s, When I Don’t Desire God.