They say practice makes perfect, but what does it mean to “practice” your faith?
We often talk about Christianity as a belief, a relationship, or even a way of life. While these terms are accurate and helpful, they often give a feeling that our faith is static, that our relationship is fixed. But our faith was never intended to be stationary.
“The Practice” is a 5-week series in which we will rediscover the lost practices that show us how to grow in our faith.
The most crushing thing isn’t when you didn’t accomplish what you hoped, but when you didn’t become who we thought we were.
Christianity has not been tried and found wanting, it has been found difficult and left untried. – GK Chesterton
The question isn’t will we be formed but how will we be formed because the reality is we’re already being formed.
Meant for work and rest but we live in toil and leisure.
When it comes to matters of faith, we often concern ourselves only with thoughts and beliefs – things that can be held and processed in the brain. This is reflected in the way that we practice our faith as well. We pray and read our bibles, maybe have a conversation with someone about what we’re learning, all good things to be sure, but all things that often ignore a very important part of ourselves: our physical bodies.
The reality is that we are physical beings whose physical actions impact our spiritual well-being. When we fail to recognize the role our bodies play in our faith formation, we miss an opportunity to be transformed more fully into the image of God that we were created to be. By engaging in somatic spiritual practices, we can strengthen our connection to the Creator who formed, sustains, and loves every part of us – spirit, mind, and body.
Somatic means of or relating to the body. Somatic practices, then, are practices that incorporate the body. These don’t have to be complicated or time consuming, and chances are you may already be including somatic practice in your personal spiritual formation without realizing it. Do you kneel or change your posture while you pray? Have you ever turned your daily workout into a time of reflection on God’s goodness? Do you sing along in worship during Sunday gatherings (we hope the answer is yes)? If so, you’re already engaging your body in formative practice!
This week, we challenge you to take time to engage in somatic practice.
Check out some of the ideas below:
Prayer Walk – A prayer walk is a great way to be physically present to the transformation happening all around us. It involves walking through a place (your neighborhood, home, school, etc) and inviting God to work in and through the lives of those who inhabit the space. Your walk could center on a specific concern, maybe a decision to be made or a relationship to be reconciled, general well-being, or for what is to come. Regardless of where you go or what you pray for, take this time to reflect on the reality of God’s presence in the space.
Questions for reflection:
How does movement affect the way that you pray? How does recognizing God’s presence in a physical place change your way of interacting with others?
Self-Care – As author and educator Parker Palmer shares in Let Your Life Speak, “Self-care is never a selfish act – it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others.” In our achievement based society, it can be easy to push ourselves beyond our limits, to do more at the expense of our own physical health. Taking time to rest and engage in physically restorative practices can seem selfish but, as Parker suggests, self-care is an act of proper stewardship. Take time this week to take care of your body – eat a good meal, exercise, take a nap, spend time doing something you love, and as you do, reflect on your body as a gift from God.
Questions for reflection:
How might viewing your body as a gift from God change the way that you treat it? What might your body be telling you about how God desires for you to care for this gift?
Breath Prayer – Breath prayer is a practice that connects communion with God to that which is most essential to our physical existence: breath. Breath has been central to God’s relationship with humankind from the beginning, when God breathes life into the first human beings. By combining prayer with the natural rhythm of breath we begin to pray in our bodies, not just our minds, and in doing so we embody Paul’s instruction to pray without ceasing. There’s really no right or wrong way to practice breath prayer, and this simple way of praying can be used to meditate on scripture, such as “My soul finds rest in God alone,” (Psalm 62:1) or to express one’s inner desires, such as “Jesus, have mercy on me.” To practice breath prayer, begin by choosing a phrase to pray from scripture, or create your own by combining a name of God with a praise or desire. Breathe in and out calling the first half of the phrase to mind while you inhale, and offering the second half of the phrase as you exhale. Continue repeating the prayer to the rhythm of your breath for a set period of time or until you feel a sense of inner peace.
Follow along with a guided breath prayer.Questions for reflection:
What are the advantages or disadvantages of repetitive prayer? How else might you pray in a way that reminds you of Christ’s presence within you?
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