An Anglican priest ruined it for me. He ruined the phrase “enter the presence of God.”
I was at a Lenten prayer service last year when he said, “Let us become present to the Lord, for He is always present to us.” I knew what he was saying was true, for I’d learned it in other areas of my life (Psalm 139 anyone?). So what he said was more a vocabulary lesson than a course correction.
God is always present and available to us, and I can no longer say with integrity that we “enter the Lord’s presence” during a worship service. In fact, now when I hear that phrase from others, I start to tune out. What I can say with integrity is that we can choose to become present to the Lord.
So with that in mind, here’s everything I know about becoming present to the Lord. In other words, here’s everything I know about spiritual formation (so far).
1. Regular, private devotional times with God.
I’ve talked about this a lot before and how it’s changed my life, so I won’t rehash it here. I’ll just summarize my low-pressure method for cultivating intimacy with God:
- Don’t feel guilty for short times with God
- Don’t feel guilty if you can’t keep up with a fast-paced Bible-reading plan
- Don’t feel guilty for deviating from your plans
- Don’t feel guilty about skipping times.
2. Meeting with other believers for corporate worship.
The Church has been key to my spiritual growth. I go into a worship service expecting God to speak to me through songs, sermons, and prayers. And He does.
I’d like to quote Misty Edwards here on the mystery of corporate worship: “Musical worship involves a physical voice, physical sound waves that actually move through the air and strike your ear, go into your mind, into your emotions and spirit.” She also noted that “Musical worship is how the Body becomes One.”
I cannot downplay the importance of the Church in my spiritual life; neither can I downplay the importance of my private devotional life. I need both.
3. Small group Bible studies and other intimate forms of community.
I’ve talked about this before, but for years in the States I was part of a small ladies’ Bible study. I learned so much about life and faith from those (mostly older) women. They empathized with my struggles and prayed me through some of my darkest days. Most of what I know about Grace, I learned with them.
These days my teammates function as my small group. We share sorrows and joys together and pray for and support each other. I’m so thankful for people who listen to, accept, pray for, and advise the “real me.”
4. Getting counseling.
Sometimes personal devotionals, corporate worship, and talking with trusted people are enough to work through my issues; sometimes they are not. I’ve had several key breakthroughs in my life because of counselors (both licensed professional counselors and pastoral counselors), and I cannot overstate the importance of sometimes getting outside help. I would not be where I am today in my relationship with God and my relationship with others without the help and intervention of those counselors.
Well there you have it, everything I know about spiritual formation (so far). What would you add to my list?
5 thoughts on “This is what I know about spiritual formation (so far)”
Love all your sub-points in #1. I have come to very similar conclusions. If I can’t keep up with long prayer times and fast paced Bible reading plans it is better to be faithful to doing what I can instead of giving it up all together. In yoga many people say 10 minutes every day is better than an hour 1 time a week.
Your message about the importance of counseling is encouraging. I have never had the courage to do it, but I think it would help so much.
I think it’s the same with exercise or Bible reading or prayer (or any discipline really): the 10 minutes you DO do are better than the 30 minutes you DON’T do. You can substitute other numbers, but the main idea is the same. 🙂
And I just want to say about counseling — it’s SO worth it! The dividends it pays in spiritual, emotional, and relational health are unbelievably valuable. So I hope I can be a gentle encouragement to at least try it out. 🙂
Much love to you today, and may Jesus meet you in your life, wherever you find yourself right now.
Thanks for your encouragement.
I adopted that low pressure method years ago and have experienced freedom from that stress of worry over what others think of me. When we moved up to northern Mn., first thing I did was look for a women’s bible study, due to covid fear there was none. After months of waiting, I put it before the Lord again and my thought was, Betty, you should start a bible study, I love to teach. So I did, we have been meeting for a year, have 8 women coming. Like me, they were weary of shutting themselves in the house out of fear. Some were not going to church but felt comfortable to come to a private home. We are all close to the same age, 60’s and 70’s, all the older women in the church. women who could all counsel the younger ones. God is not through with us in our winter years. We have found encouragement from being together, learning God has a way for us to minister at our age. Love this post, love the four, don’t. There is great freedom in those four and when we put them into practice it’s amazing how much you can know the presence of God. Thanks for a great post.
Small group Bible studies are so important for our spiritual health! I haven’t been in a group for several years but just recently joined one and am loving it again. I’m so glad you have that support in your life right now, too. ~Elizabeth