How do I engage in spiritual disciplines?
Inconsistently. That single word describes two sides to my practice of spiritual disciples.
On the one hand, I use the word inconsistently to describe my struggle with spiritual disciplines. Over the last twenty years, I have regularly spent time in Bible reading and prayer. However, I’ve consistently missed days. Despite my good intentions, I’ve never been able to have a “quiet time” every single day for an extended period without missing a day.
Here are a few examples of my “inconsistency.”
- I have four young kids. Kids require tremendous time and energy. There have been times when the exhaustion of parenting took me away from consistency in spiritual disciplines.
- I’ve never been great at maintaining my routine when I’m on vacation. I always have great intentions of catching up or spending time in solitude. Those plans rarely pan out.
- My wife and I have moved six times in 15 years of marriage. Moving is the worst, and it’s always been hard for me to be regular in spiritual disciplines in the process of moving.
- Sundays have always been a challenge for me when I think about spiritual disciplines. Of course, I’m up early studying and praying, but it’s focused on my sermon, not my soul.
So, just to be transparent, I have to admit that I engage in spiritual disciplines inconsistently. I just don’t have an impressive streak of consecutive days of faithful Bible reading and prayer.
On the other hand, inconsistency is part of my strategy when it comes to spiritual disciplines. I regularly change up my devotional time. I do this because routine quickly results in boredom in my life. Changes may include new Bibles, new journals, new times, or new locations, but a regular change in my approach prevents me from letting a good routine turn into an empty ritual.
Beyond the word inconsistency, my approach to spiritual disciplines is pretty straightforward. I want to hear from God, I want to talk to God, and I want to learn about God.
Hearing from God. This happens through Bible reading. Each year I have a Bible reading plan. Sometimes that plan is reading through the Bible in a year. Sometimes that plan is using a journaling Bible, reading cover to cover, and writing my thoughts as I read. Whatever plan I end up using, I always want to start by hearing from God by reading his word.
Talking to God. This happens through prayer, and for me, this is the hardest spiritual discipline. It’s hard to stay focused. It’s hard not to be dully repetitive. As an aid, I often use journaling as a companion to prayer. I may write out a verse as I pray in response, or I might write my actual prayers. Either way, the act of writing helps me focus on the act of prayer.
Learning about God. Some may not consider this a spiritual discipline. I do. For thousands of years, the vast majority of Christians did not have a complete Bible they could read during their daily devotional time. Instead, they were dependent on the community of believers to help them grow in their knowledge of and love for God. Even with easy access to the Scriptures, I believe we still ought to depend on the community of believers to grow. For me, this takes the form of reading books and listening to podcasts. I never want these activities to supplant Bible intake and prayer. I do want these activities to enhance Bible reading and prayer. If I know anything, I know enough to know I don’t know enough. I always want to be learning more about God, growing in the knowledge of God and growing in love for God.
Landon Coleman serves as the teaching pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Odessa, Texas, where he lives with his wife Brooke. They have four children, Emma, Noelle, Amelia, and Clayton. Landon is a graduate of West Texas A&M University (BBA), and a two-time graduate of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (MDiv and PhD). He is the author of Pastor to Pastor: Practical Advice for Regular Pastors and Pray Better: Learning to Pray Biblically, both of which were published by Rainer Publishing. Landon has pastored churches in Kentucky and Oklahoma, and he has taught for Oklahoma Baptist University and BH Carroll Theological Institute.