Some simple resources to help us grow as disciples….
Christ’s call to follow Him is a true blessing. In His teaching and example contained in the Gospels, we are given hope and encouragement that there is a better way of living life in this world – God’s way; we are assured of something better at the end of this life – God’s kingdom; and we are urged to repent and believe, to be ready for that day when we must all give an account for our lives at the final Judgement.
All this sounds a little heavy. But if we believe and trust in God, and that the bible contains all things necessary for salvation, we are wise when we take these things to heart. As Christian Disciples we seek to nurture in our lives good practices and disciplines which help us to persevere as we seek to live faithful and obedient lives, dedicated to loving God, imitating Christ. We are helped in this by the inspiration of Christ’s Spirit.
What follows are a few ideas of how we can nurture our discipleship. These tools have been gathered under five headings. The first four – pray, learn, tell, serve – are what Bishop Libby refers to as “The foundational building blocks of the practice of our faith”; the fifth heading contains some general suggestions you might wish to explore.
It is important to remember that God has given us many vocations in our lives. Some as parents, grandparents, carers for the sick or infirm. Some will be in paid employment or do voluntary work. We many have hobbies or interests which enrich our lives and refresh our souls. So think carefully about which, if any, of these you might wish to try. Pray for the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit. And if you do adopt some of these, be measured in your approach – a healthy balance is as important for the soul as it is for the body, so do not be tempted to adopt too many at once. Start of small, allow one or two of these to become engrained in your pattern of daily living, and in your hearts and minds. Then consider trying other ideas.
Then Jesus told His disciples, ‘If any want to become My followers, let them deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Me. (Matt. 17:24)
Pray … as you can, not as you can’t
Communal Worship – join us at any of our regular services
Creating a Desert Place
Find a space at home, somewhere you can call your desert place, a place to withdraw to and escape the hustle and bustle of daily life and be find solitude to be with God. For example:
• a table in a quiet room – you may want to put a prayer book and bible, crucifix or icon, and a candle on it
• a quiet corner of the garden, surrounded by creation
From your prayers, bible study or reading, pick a key word or phrase, and then set yourself a time limit, of say, five minutes. Write freely about that word or phrase. Try not to stop writing, or to think too deeply about what you are writing. Simply let the words flow from your heart as a prayer. When your time is up, read what you have written, observing key points, feelings, emotions, and look for any signs of the Spirit at work within you, through what you have written.
Daily Hope offers music, prayers and reflections as well as full worship services from the Church of England at the end of a telephone line.
A Church of England initiative in partnership with CONNECTIONS at Holy Trinity Claygate, and Faith in Later Life
The line – which is available 24 hours a day on 0800 804 8044 – has been set up particularly with those unable to join online church services during the period of restrictions in mind.
Pausing for prayer through the Day
Set an alarm at whatever frequency you can manage… 1, 2, 6 hourly intervals. When the alarm sounds, stop whatever you are doing, and pray the Collect of the week. Spend a few moments being still before God, remembering that you are His beloved child. Pray the Lord’s Prayer. Then simply carry on with your day.
G.D. Carleton’s simple model of meditation – prepare, picture, ponder, pray, promise
Prepare your soul…
Still yourself, and ask God to speak to you through the reading and your meditation. Fix your heart and mind on the presence of God, trying to push away all distractions – internal and external; ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in this time given to God.
Picture the event…
Read the passage through slowly and carefully a few times; try not just to read, but to imagine; make the story a vivid picture in your mind.
Ask yourself questions: what does the passage mean? What does it teach you about Jesus? What does it mean to you personally? What is the lesson you can learn from it? How does the passage make you feel? Don’t try too hard, don’t force it, but in the quiet stillness, allow God to speak to you.
As you reflect, what do you want to say to God in response to what He says to you? What words of faith, hope, love, contrition, thanksgiving, adoration, trust, sympathy and so forth come to your mind as you speak with the Father, through the Son, in the power of the Spirit? Listen to what God wants to say to you, as well as what you wish to say to Him.
Are any good resolutions emerging in your mind as you pray? Does the passage suggest ways that you can more closely conform your life to the truth that has been brought home to you during your meditation? Are the fruits of your meditation things you can do for God, your fellow humanity or for yourself? If so, pray for God’s grace to help you. Make simple promises that you can keep that day. If nothing comes to mind, simply promise to recall the subject of your mediation at a definite time during the day, so that the influences of your prayers may be prolonged. And at the end of the day, during your time of self-examination, reflect on how you have kept any promises you made to God that day.
Praying The Lord’s Prayer – Two Models
A Simple Approach…
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.
Offer your pray to Father in heaven.
Worship and adore His holy name.
Pray for the coming of his kingdom,
as humanity comes to do to His will,
so earth begins to reflect heaven.
Ask for physical and spiritual sustenance.
Confess any sins which come to mind.
Pray for the wisdom and grace to forgive others, and ourselves.
Pray for strength to resist temptation,
and ask God to protect you from evil.
Acknowledge that all we have, is God’s,
that He is the Almighty, the one to Whom
we and all creation give eternal praise.
A More Structured Approach…
The Lord’s Prayer, as a distinctively Christian prayer, given by Jesus to His disciples, underlines our relationship with God, God has adopted us as His Children. Notice how God comes first. Like the Ten Commandments, the Summary of the Law and Jesus, teaching elsewhere, the Lord’s Prayer tells us we must get our priorities right – we must put God before our own needs and desires. If we get our relationship with God right, everything else will fall into place.
Robert Warren tells us that by praying the Lord’s Prayer, we can develop a personal framework for ourselves until it becomes a source of growth and change in our lives, and a personal meditative aid. (An Affair of the Heart, 1998, p158-60). Warren goes on to show how the Lord’s Prayer offers this structure by using each line as a petition to spring other prayers off.
Use this framework a number of times, until you make it your own, then expect your use to grow and change until it is your meditative aid rather than mine. It may well take a month or two of using this outline several times a week to reach that point. ‘Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we reap a harvest if we do not give up.’ (Galatians 6:9)
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours. Now and for ever. Amen.
Our Father in heaven
Look up to God who has made all that is, and rejoice that he knows and cares for you. He has given us his Spirit, so that we can call him ‘Abba, Father’ (Romans 8:15, Galatians:4:6)
He is powerful yet he uses his power only in doing good.
See yourself as part of a world-wide family that is chosen and loved by the Father.
Rejoice that such a God actively invites us to come before him in prayer.
God’s name expresses his character, meditate on that character and its many side-lines – creativity, compassion, truth, holiness, justice, peace, mercy.
Praise God that his ‘just and gentle rule’ has broken into this world, supremely in Christ.
Praise him for every way in which you are aware of his kingdom coming into your ‘world’
Lift to him situations that cry out for the breaking in of his kingdom.
Listen to the Spirit giving you prayer beyond your understanding for the coming of his kingdom into specific situations.
Be open to the gift of righteousness indignation or compassion as fuel for prayer.
Let the gulf between what is and what could/should be, generate faith and hope for prayer.
Expect to be made eager for a new world order in which righteousness and peace dwell.
Bring your life before God to be available to him to his service.
Be open to his directions for your living.
Be specific in bringing your practical needs to God, especially those things you need in order to do the will of God.
Pray for evangelists and missionary Christians
Pray for the spread of the Gospel throughout our community, our nation and the world and for the success of this wave of prayer.
Pray for those living in hunger, poverty or any need.
Where we have sinned, own it, give it to God and receive in its place his forgiveness.
Where we have been wronged, admit it, and release those people from any debt to you – pray for God’s blessing on anyone who is your enemy, anyone you find difficult.
Be open to God showing you any way in which you are involved in a spiritual battle – ask for God’s wisdom, strength, protection and courage to handle that situation.
And the glory are yours. Amen
Affirm the fact that God is with you wherever you go.
Celebrate the fact that when you leave your time of prayer, God goes with you.
Look with the eyes of faith, hope and love on the things that you are about to turn to.
(ref: Emmaus Growth Book 2: Growing as a Christian p33/34)
Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive (Matt. 21:22)
Learn … wisdom or heart knowledge, rather than head knowledge
Explore some gospel stories:
Explore the stories about Jesus by asking yourself a few simple questions. What does this story say about God? What does this story tell me about people? Where do I fit into the story? Is there a command to obey or a promise to believe? What one thing from this story do I want to share with someone else?
Read a book
It could be a book on theology, spiritual classic, something modern, doctrine, anything to do with our faith.
Explore a book of the bible.
There are many fantastic commentaries available. I am currently working through the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture series, available from Amazon, which I highly recommend.
Reflect on an area of Church Life or doctrine.
For example, spend some time thinking about baptism – what is baptism? What is the Church of England’s teaching on baptism? How does my baptism shape my life? How do I live out my baptismal promises, and so forth?
Come to Me… and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.’ (Matt. 11:28-29)
Tell … someone gave us the gift of faith, who can we share that gift with?
When we are passionate about something, we find it easy to share our experiences… a good book we’ve read, a place we have visited, a restaurant we’ve eaten in. But we are sometimes hesitant about discussing what we do in church, we are even more hesitant about inviting people to join us. Yet some people are just waiting to be invited to come along. A piece of research shows some amazingly encouraging facts and figures about wider society’s views on faith and religion – https://talkingjesus.org/research-from-the-course/ – from which we can draw much encouragement. How can we grow in confidence to share our faith?
Growing in confidence to share your story
A simple 2 minutes explanation about how you came to faith in Jesus Christ and the difference He makes to your life. Write it, practice it, learn it and use it when the opportunity arises.
Growing in confidence to share Jesus’ story
Learn a simple outline of the good news, so you can explain to someone else the story of Jesus. Write it, practice it, learn it and use it when the opportunity arises.
Growing in Confidence to talk about your faith
Imagine you have just got into a lift with a stranger, and they notice you’re wearing a cross. They hesitantly say, “I see you’re wearing a cross, are you a Christian? Can I ask you ….” Fill in the questions yourself … Why go to church? What is the Eucharist about? How can I pray? What happens when we die? You have two minutes to answer their question before you reach your floor and go your separate ways. What would you want to say?
Example responses to possible questions we might consider can be found at https://www.facebook.com/newmillschurch/
‘Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you’ (Matt. 27:19-20)
Serve … not all vocations are to ordained ministry
Pray about, nurture and exercise your vocation
We all have vocations, a calling from God to serve Him in the world. ….
Is there something going on in the world about which you feel passionate? The Climate, Homelessness, social justice, issues around human sexuality? Perhaps your vocation is to get involved and be a supporter and advocate. By drawing attention to a plight, event or need to the people of Saint George’s there may be are other members who share your concerns and wish to get involved.
‘Whoever gives a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple – truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.’ (Matt. 10.42)
Develop a personal mission statement:
I want to… in order that…. For example, I want to grow spiritually in order that I may know, love and serve the Father after the example of the Son through the grace of the Holy Spirit.
I want to help to grow our church in order that others may come to know, love and serve God.
Write a rule of life
A Rule of life is something to aim for and help you, not something to feel guilty about if you don’t keep it every day.
Reflect on the key areas of your life and decide what is important to you. What inspires you? What invigorates you? Come up with some key areas, things which are important to you in your life. Put some things in to aim to do daily, weekly or even annually. For example:
• To spend 10 minutes praying twice a day
• To go on a retreat annually
• To read for half an hour every day
• To go on a course
• Pray for God’s gifts and graces to share your faith story with others when the opportunity arises
• Talk more about your faith and belief when in church – if we can’t support and encourage one another, will we do so if someone outside of the congregation asks us questions?
• Pray, nurture and exercise your vocation, whatever that may be
• To give time to a cause you feel passionate about
• To spend an afternoon a week at my hobby
• To meet with friends for coffee regularly
Use a diary (a notepad would do just as well!) to keep a daily record of your spiritual life:
• prayer times
• Bible study or reading
• Any key phrases or sentences which have jumped out from these
• Any dominant thoughts or feelings
• Any sorrows/sins committed that day
• Any joys or things to be thankful for from the day
• Record any movements of God you may be aware of… any moments of grace, stirrings, inspirations, etc.
Plan an ‘at home’ quiet day
Pencil out a day, a part of a day, or a couple of days, depending on your time, and have some space with God.
• Commit to ignoring any distractions – unplug the telephone, computer, radio and so forth
• Select a book you may wish to use… a spiritual classic is ideal
• Plan in times for prayer, times for reading, times for reflection, coffee/meal breaks, times for a walk, etc.
Is this something that could be done with others? Even if socially distanced… a zoom quiet day. Those without internet access can join worship by telephone.
Join a Society
The Society of Catholic Priests has recently launched a new movement for lay people, The Chi Rho Movement
“The Society of Catholic Priests is delighted to launch the Chi Rho Movement, an organisation to help lay people nurture their faith and discover the unique vocation that God has in store for them, for the building up of the Body of Christ”
“We are an educational charity and our primary aim is to resource people to grow in the faith, in order to help them respond to contemporary society’s spiritual hunger and thirst for justice.”
Many religious orders have tertiary or companion groups which offer mutual support through prayer, retreats and various resources. The link below gives access to networks of groups from a wide variety of traditions
Make a Retreat
A retreat is a time away from the hustle and bustle of daily life where you can find space, time and silence to be with God. Some retreats are structured, with set times for prayer, will have regular talks given by a retreat leader, and lots of space for private prayer, reflection, reading and walks. Other types can be less structured. Usually an experienced retreat leader will be available if you need someone to talk to in confidence.
Please do not hesitate to contact Father Owain if you would like any help, support or guidance as you seek to nurture your personal discipleship