How to Fight for Time With God
How to Fight for Time With God
Grace, mercy, and peace.
That’s how Paul begins and ends so many of his letters. Celebrating the grace, mercy, and peace that God is always pouring out on his people.
Here’s the problem: there are certain things we do in life that cut us off from the flow of God’s grace, mercy, and peace. Like when we’re being self-centered. James 4 says, “You ask and don’t receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.” If we pray selfish prayers, God doesn’t listen. His grace gets choked off.
That also happens when we’re not admitting our sin. Psalm 66 says, “If I cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” When we’re ignoring God’s word, Proverbs 28 says, “Anyone who turns his ear away from hearing the law — even his prayer is detestable.” When we’re being unloving, 1 Peter 3 says, “Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing them honor as coheirs of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.”
God’s grace, and mercy, and peace don’t just flow all the time. We often shut the valve off through the things we do.
But we can also turn the valve back on through certain things we do. Theologians call them the means of grace. God’s provided ways that you can experience more of his grace. Like gathering together with God’s people. Receiving communion. Listening to God’s preached word. Those are all corporate means of grace.
Then there are everyday means of grace we can pursue. But in our modern world it can be a fight to pursue them. We need to fight against the craziness of work, social media, and entertainment. We need to fight against our complacency and laziness.
That’s what Justin Earley discovered. He was a missionary in China, and he felt like he was really close to God, all the time. Then he came back to America and became a corporate lawyer. After getting sucked back in to the craziness of modern life, he woke up one day and realized how distant he felt from God.
So he came up with some disciplines that would help him re-connect with God in this crazy modern world. Means of grace for modern people. Ways to access God’s grace, mercy, and peace in the middle of the battle. He wrote a book called The Common Rule to explain what he was doing.
And as we go through our sermon series The Fight, the elders of Harbor are challenging our church to try some of his practices out. We’re going to implement one of these practices every week.
This week we’re pausing for kneeling prayer three times a day. Here’s how Justin explains a practice that may sound weird to many Christians:
Habits are something we do over and over without thinking about them. They shape our world effortlessly. They form us more than we form them—and that’s why they are so powerful.
A keystone habit is a super-habit. It’s the first domino in the line; by changing one habit, we simultaneously change ten other habits.
Beginning the day in kneeling prayer is such a keystone habit. In morning prayer, we frame the first words of the day in God’s love for us, which is to say we uproot the weeds of legalism that grow if we simply do nothing, and we lay the first piece of the day’s trellis on which love can grow.
It took a terrible anxiety collapse to get me to think closely about what was happening in my heart each morning. I examined those moments, and I found that I was by default beginning the day by speaking the words of my pride or fear into each day. Framing the day in terms of me was effortless.
I wanted to change that, but changing habits of the mind is immensely tricky. Thoughts are slippery things. We can’t grab them. Actually, we can’t even touch them, and they often happen before we know it. Hence their power. They are the unnoticeable emotional water we swim in that ends up shaping everything.
For me, the first step in changing such thought habits was the discovery of the automatic “do not disturb” function on my phone. (Often reprogramming our phones is a way to reprogram our thought life, which goes to show how non-neutral our phones are.) Setting my phone to automatically go to “do not disturb” at 11 p.m. and stay set until 8 a.m. means that my family and other select contacts can call me if they need to. Anyone else who calls twice in an emergency will come through too. (Yes, that is sometimes work calls.) But otherwise it is silent.
This removed a thousand legalistic nudges during my morning, but alone it was not enough. That was only clearing the rubble.
The second step was to kneel. Often one of the only ways to take hold of the mind is to take hold of the body. As I kneeled, my sleepy mind was shocked into a new kind of moment. It wondered what was going on. What are we doing down here on the cold floor? (If you struggle with getting out of bed on time, this helps by hurting. Mild pain is a great way to stop snoozing. Fair warning.)
Now that the rubble is cleared out and the usual habits of the morning mind are disrupted, here we do what we were created to do. Like God, we speak words of love into the world.