The priority of spiritual habits

November 10th, 2011 · by Tom Stuart · Growth & Development, Prayer, Relationship with God

“And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as was His custom, He went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and He stood up to read.”  Luke 4:16 (ESV)

“As was His custom” – four simple words that communicate volumes.  What does that phrase, applied to your life tell everyone about you? 

In many ways our customs define us because they tell us what things we have decided to give priority to in our lives. The ideal is to establish regular practices and habits that impart energy, provide stability and/or add meaning to life.  When we think about daily routine – our dietary habits, ways in which we keep informed and engage with media and our exercise routines or the lack thereof all come to mind.  But the most important customs to establish in life are the spiritual ones.

Jesus was a creature of habit when it came to His spiritual life.  He made a commitment to habitual daily, weekly and even annual practices that nourished His personal relationship with His Heavenly Father.  These practices also became the platform from which He launched a good portion of His ministry.  Daily prayer, early in the morning or late at night (Mark 1:35 & 6:46), weekly engagement in worship and the Scriptures each Sabbath at the synagogue and regular attendance at the annual feasts in Jerusalem were the benchmarks of His spiritual life.

If Jesus, fully God, yet fully man, made daily communion with God and weekly engagement in worship the priority in His life, how much more should we?  Paul, following in Jesus’ footsteps, began each week in the synagogue as well.  “As was Paul’s custom, he went to the synagogue service, and for three Sabbaths in a row he used the Scriptures to reason with the people,” (Acts 17:2 NLT)

Daniel and David were monsters of the faith when it came to their prayer habits.  We are told that Daniel, even under the threat of death, “. . .  prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God.”  And David makes an incredible declaration of his habitual commitment: “Seven times a day I praise you for you righteous laws.” (Psalm 119:164 NIV)

What are your spiritual customs? 

When I first became a Christian, I had godly mentors who in word and deed challenged me to incorporate key spiritual habits into my life.  These habits have been the mainstay of my Christian life and relationship with God.  One was a “no Bible, no breakfast” commitment.  Years ago I made a decision to read through the entire Bible once each year for the rest of my life.  Installments of that scripture journey continue to the present to be the mainstay of my day and the primary way in which God speaks to me.  It has not always been easy and like any commitment has been tested.  Sometimes my no Bible, no breakfast maxim has turned into no Bible, no bedtime.    

Coupled with that has been a daily commitment to prayer.  Typically the outline of prayer provided in the Lord’s Prayer has been my guide.  Logging a prayer journal has also been a huge help in keeping me on track.  Yes, at times a busy schedule and unforeseen circumstances have derailed me and I have missed some days.  But my habitual commitment to a Bible reading plan and prayer journal have always gotten me back on track. 

The other custom, which from my conversion has been deeply ingrained in me, is to make weekly church attendance and worship with the Body of Christ a priority, even when I am out of town.  It has been concerning for me to read the national statistics and see anecdotal evidence even in my own church of less frequent church attendance by believers. Whereas in decades past, weekly Sunday attendance was the norm, we are now seeing church members attending only 2 or 3 times a month. 

Spiritual habits are the responsibility of the individual.  Bottom line no one can attend church for you.  No one can read your Bible for you.  Nor can anyone else commune with God in prayer for you.  It is incumbent upon each of us as individuals to develop our own customs that will nurture our relationship with God.

It might be beneficial for you to take some time to consider what might be said of your spiritual customs.  Would they bear repeating?  Are they illustrative of your desire to know God better and to become more like His Son Jesus?

Your thoughts and comments are always welcome.

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