The Transformational Month Challenge
Spiritual discipline has experienced a renaissance of sorts among protestant Christians due largely to the work of Dallas Willard and Richard Foster which has created a category of discipleship known as Spiritual Formation. Spiritual formation is essentially the practice of actively practicing certain disciplines for the purpose of communing with God and allowing Him to form the believer from the inside out.
Spiritual disciplines are not new, the catholic and eastern orthodox traditions have utilized disciplines from the very beginning. Indeed Judaism itself is wrought with various disciplines and activities that are perceived as forms of worship. But the concept is indeed new to the more evangelical protestant systems.
When cultivating a relationship with God communication with Him and the practice of active transparency are the primary modes of of truly knowing Him. But through the practice of other disciplines such as bible study, bible meditation, silence, fasting, contemplative prayer, and others we are actively inviting God to reveal Himself to us through these activities and thus be renewed or transformed. Spiritual disciplines are tools in which we seek to directly experience God for the purpose of growing in our knowledge of Him. The result will ultimately be transformation. For when we truly see Him, understand Him, and catch a revelation of Him first hand we experience a renewal of our mind and ultimately a reordering of our interior expression.
There are dangers in appropriating these tools in the wrong way. For instance if we seek to practice these disciplines in order to experience freedom from some sin, or if we do them because we believe we will somehow be a more "serious" Christian. These motives of heart can lead to damage, and ultimately they will prove to be unfruitful. The proper heart posture should be to know Him. To see Him in a new light. To experience His goodness in ways that are foreign to our day to day life. In this way these disciplines will bear much fruit.
Some good disciplines that one can begin to plug into their normal day to day are things like Bible meditation, worship, and stillness. In biblical meditation we seek to focus on a single verse, and ruminate over it, saying it out loud, and really contemplating each word and phrase. We are not robotically repeating a bible verse, but we are inviting the Spirit to show Himself in the verse, we seek revelation, wisdom, and understanding. The goal is to recall the verse as many times as possible throughout the day and to give at least two solid minutes of reflection on it, considering every word, emphasizing each word through every pass, in order to draw from it a form of divine enlightenment. Now not all verses will work well for this, for instance the verse "Judas went and hung himself" may not be a good candidate for meditation. Focus on the promises of God, a quick google search will bring up many worthy candidates.
In worship we set aside some time, either at the beginning of the day or at its close, to worship God. We want to engage with our imagination here. We want to see Jesus, and pour out our heart in thankfulness, praise, and love. We want to consider the words of the song and invite the Spirit to speak to us through them. We want to focus our heart, mind, and full attention on Jesus, honoring Him with our love, while inviting the Spirit to move upon us freely as He sees fit.
Stillness is more of a contemplative style of prayer. We want to dedicate at least ten minutes to silent adoration of Jesus. You can put on some soft worship music but you don't want anything to interfere with your focused adoration. In this type of prayer you should begin with an invitation asking the Spirit to come and manifest Himself to you, to speak with you, to engage you in ways that will bring healing and refreshment. Then you want to fix your attention on Jesus. You can use your imagination to picture Him sitting with you, you can imagine the cross, the options are endless! The goal is to fix your attention on Him for at least ten minutes, in silence, while allowing the Spirit to do His thing. Follow the Spirit no matter what happens. Allow visions to play out in your mind. If God moves to something He wants to heal let Him do it. If Jesus begins addressing you then engage in the conversation. This is a Spirit led activity, and one that is designed to open you up to direct communion with the Lord.
Give these a shot, in this manner, for about a month. Make time everyday to practice one of the three listed here. In your journal write down your present state, or where you are before you begin this experiment. Articulate your spiritual condition, emotional condition, mental condition. What fears you have, and most importantly what your current perspective of God is. At the end of the month write write down your state in light of the experiment and compare your post experiment state, after the month of disciplines, with your state before you started and see what transformation has occurred.