Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me–watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message)
What is spiritual formation?
Spiritual formation, as defined by M. Robert Mulholland in his book Invitation to a Journey, is “the process of being conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others.” At SBPC, we hope to be a place where you gain a better understanding of who God is, who you are, and how the two of you can connect on a deeper level.
For centuries Christians have sought ways to draw near to God through intentional practices, relationships, and experiences that enabled them to journey with Jesus.
Who needs spiritual formation?
In reality, we are all in the process of being spiritually formed. However, what we are being formed into depends on what we are focused on. The truth is, God is already present in every moment; spiritual formation helps us shift our focus to pay attention and recognize his constant presence. Life is full of distractions and responsibilities that cause us to become scattered and hurried with little time left for paying attention to our spiritual life. When we operate in the tyranny of the urgent, we pay a heavy price in our growth toward wholeness. Spiritual Formation, specifically Christian Formation, offers help for those who desire to travel with Jesus by giving space for God. As we become disciplined in spending time with God, we learn to experience God in everyday living.
Spiritual practices are habits, attitudes, or experiences that invite people to create space in their lives for God. As each person is created uniquely, some spiritual practices will resonate more deeply than others.
Each week during our small group sessions, we incorporate a spiritual practice to give us a new experience with the scripture and each other. While these practices were designed to work in a group setting, we encourage you to utilize these practices for your personal use. Learn more about the practices listed below by reading the Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun.
Barefoot Prayer: This practice is an invitation to walk outside our comfort zone to help feel the world in different ways. Use the various feelings that arise in you to get in touch with God’s presence, his promises, or his guidance in your life. Look for different surfaces to walk on both inside and outside.
Breath Prayer: Breath prayer is linking the rhythms of breathing to words that remind us of God’s presence in us. Say a biblical name or image of God while breathing in, and a simple God-given desire as you breathe out. (For example, Son of David, have mercy on me or Healer of my soul, I long for your touch.) The brevity of the prayer allows you to remember it and repeat it (5-9 words long).
Caring for the Community: By caring for our community, we are honoring the Creator by loving, nurturing, and being good stewards of his handiwork. God delights in his good works, which includes the people he created and the world he entrusted us with.
Celebration: Celebration as a discipline helps us take joy in the faithful presence of a loving God, believing he is always present and always with us. Delighting in God’s constant presence helps us to endure all of life’s trials, temptations, and distress. Celebration allows us to live from a mentality of abundance rather than of scarcity.
Compassion: Jesus extends his willingness, action, and forgiveness as a powerful gift of compassion that we can receive and offer to others. As we become like Jesus, he involves us in bringing his compassion to others in need of healing and restoration.
Contemplative Reading: Contemplative Reading allows us to engage with the Holy Spirit in a more intimate way. As you journey through this exercise, you may want to consider writing your thoughts and feelings down in a journal. This might help collect your thoughts, and better discern where God is leading you.
Detachment: Detachment is the act of replacing our attachment to success, money, power, ego, productivity, or image with wholehearted attachment to and trust in God alone.
Focus: In order to develop a continual openness and awareness of Christ’s presence, we must practice a new way of being by letting go of our control-giving all areas of our lives to God. Use this time of silence as a way to personally identify, confess, and re-focus on Christ as the center of our lives.
Giving Thanks: Counting our blessings is a powerful spiritual practice that focuses our attention on God’s goodness and blessing by first noticing, and then offering him praise. Sometimes, it is easier to notice the problems in our lives, rather than recognize the blessings of God.
Guided Prayer: Set your heart before the Lord and draw near to Him as He draws near to you.
Hospitality: Hospitality requires the desire to create a safe place and be a welcoming person who offers the grace, shelter, and presence of Jesus to others so that they might experience the warmth of Christ. In essence, they invite others to belong.
Imaginative Prayer: Using Scripture as a guide to meditation allows us to enter into the text with a heart alert to a personal word from God. As you pray through Biblical stories, connect your needs and feelings with the characters, allowing Jesus to guide you and speak into your life.
Journaling: In a busy world, journaling allows us time to listen and reflect on our life experiences. It gives us time to pay attention to what God is doing in our hearts. It gives us a chance to bring our joys and struggles before God, and identify both the helpful and destructive patterns that emerge. It is a way to create space for honest dialog with God and listen to his voice. Most important, journaling is a discipline of asking God questions and reflecting on how he speaks to us through our writing.
Lectio Divina: Lectio Divina is listening to Scripture to hear the voice of God. This type of reading is aimed more at growing a relationship with God than gathering information about God.
My Life Reflection: Life Reflection is a process whereby the Holy Spirit opens our hearts to what is true about ourselves within the safety of his love and good purposes, so we can seek transformation. As you reflect on your life, listen for God calling you into the transformation process of others.
Names of God: In Scripture, God reveals himself through a variety of names and characteristics. Each carries particular significance and opens us to his presence in tangible ways.
Prayer of Examen: The prayer of examen is a spiritual practice that helps us discern the voice and activity of God within the flow of our day. It is a reflection tool that opens our eyes to the places God is transforming our hearts and to the places God desires to transform us.
Solitude: Solitude is a formative practice because it gives God’s Spirit time and space. Spend time in silence to intentionally relax your body and quiet your mind.
Surrender: Our willingness to surrender to God’s will is grounded in our belief in God’s good and loving intentions for each of us. It is a way for us to allow God’s agenda to shape our choices, relationships, and behavior; it always works in conjunction with our personal freedom. God sets us free to experience the joy of a fully surrendered life. Use this exercise to meditate on your willingness to surrender to Jesus.
Worshipping God through Psalm 145: In worship, we intentionally cherish God and value him above all else. Our worship reveals what is important to us. What we love, adore, and focus on forms and shapes us. Using Psalm 145 as a guide, we will write a psalm that honors Jesus as Lord of All.