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The Spiritual Disciplines Door to Liberation. I go through life as a transient on his way to eternity, made in the image of God but with that image debased, needing to be taught how to meditate, to worship, to think. Donald Coggan, Archbishop of Canterbury.

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the spiritual disciplines door to liberation
The Spiritual Disciplines Door to Liberation

I go through life as a transient on his way to eternity,

made in the image of God but with that image debased,

needing to be taught how

to meditate, to worship, to think.

Donald Coggan, Archbishop of Canterbury

the spiritual disciplines door to liberation2
The Spiritual Disciplines Door to Liberation

Superficiality is the curse of our age.

The doctrine of instant gratification is a primary spiritual problem.

The classical Disciplines of the spiritual life call us

  • to move beyond surface living and into the depths of the soul,
  • to explore the inner caverns of the spiritual realm
  • to discover answers to the haunting questions of a hollow world

“It is good for thee to dwell deep, that thou mayest feel and understand the spirits of people.”

John Woolman

the spiritual disciplines door to liberation3
The Spiritual Disciplines Door to Liberation

God intends the Disciplines of the spiritual life to be for ordinary human beings:

  • People who have jobs
  • Who care for children
  • Who must wash dishes and mow lawns

Disciplines are best exercised in the midst of our normal daily activities.

Their transforming effects are found in the ordinary junctures of human life:

In our relationships with husband, wife, brother, sister, friends and neighbors.

the spiritual disciplines door to liberation4
The Spiritual Disciplines Door to Liberation

The Spiritual Disciplines are not hard.

The primary requirement is a longing for God.

From cradle Catholic to recent convert all are invited

“As the heart longs for flowing streams, so longs my soul for thee O God. My soul thirst for God for the living God.”

(Psalm 42:1-2)

Beginners are welcome

“We do not want to be beginners. But let us be convinced of the fact that we will never be anything else but beginners all our life!”

Thomas merton

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The Spiritual Disciplines Door to Liberation

“Deep calls to deep.”

(Psalm 47:7)

Perhaps somewhere in the subterranean chambers of our lives we have heard the call to deeper, fuller living.

We are immediately faced with two difficulties:

  • The materialistic base of our age has become so pervasive that it has given us grave doubts about our ability to reach beyond the physical world.
  • We simply do not know how to go about exploring the inward life.

Today there is an abysmal ignorance of the most simple and practical aspects of nearly all the classic Spiritual Disciplines.

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The Spiritual Disciplines Door to Liberation

The Slavery to Ingrained Habits

We are accustomed to thinking of sin as individual acts of disobedience to God.

Paul refers to sin as a condition that plagues the human race.

Romans 3:9-18

Sin as a condition works it way out through the “bodily members” the ingrained habits of the body.

“The wicked are like the tossing of the sea; for it cannot rest, and its waters toss up mire and dirt.”

(Isaiah 57:20)

The sea does not need to do anything special to produce mire and dirt; that is the results of its natural motions.

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The Spiritual Disciplines Door to Liberation

The Slavery to Ingrained Habits

Our ordinary method of dealing with ingrained sin is to launch a frontal attack!

We rely on our willpower and determination.

The moment we feel we can succeed and attain victory over our sin by the strength of our own will alone is the moment we are worshipping the will.

Paul in Colossians called this idolatry:

“will worship.”

the spiritual disciplines door to liberation8
The Spiritual Disciplines Door to Liberation

The Slavery to Ingrained Habits

Willpower will never succeed in dealing with the ingrained habits of sin.

“As soon as you resist mentally any undesirable or unwanted circumstance, you thereby endow it with more power, power which it will use against you, and you will have depleted your own resources to that exact extent.”

Emmet Fox

“As long as we think we can save ourselves by our own willpower, we will only make the evil in us stronger than ever”

St John of the Cross

Willpower has no defense against the careless word, the unguarded moment.

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The Spiritual Disciplines Door to Liberation

The Spiritual Disciplines Open the Door

Spiritual Discipline,

the giving over of our will to God’s brings about the necessary transformation of the inner spirit.

The needed change within us is God’s work,

not ours.

Inner righteousness is a gift from God to be graciously received. We cannot attain or earn this righteousness of the kingdom of God:

it is a grace that is given.

“those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.”

(Romans 5:17)

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The Spiritual Disciplines Door to Liberation

The Spiritual Disciplines Open the Door

If human striving is insufficient and righteousness is a gracious gift from God what can we do?

WE CAN PRAY!

The Disciplines allow us to place ourselves before God so that he can transform us..

The farmer is helpless to grow grain; all he can do is provide the right conditions for the growing of grain and put the seed into the ground.

The Disciplines are God’s way of getting us into the ground; they put us where he can work with us and transform us.

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The Spiritual Disciplines Door to Liberation

The Spiritual Disciplines Open the Door

By themselves the Spiritual Disciplines can do nothing;

They can only get us to the place where something can be done.

This is the purpose of the Spiritual Disciplines

They are God’s means of grace.

They are the means by which we are placed where He can bless us.

If we expect to grow, we must take up a consciously chosen course of action involving both individual and group life.

.

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The Spiritual Disciplines Door to Liberation

The Spiritual Disciplines Open the Door

Divine Love enters our inner spirit and takes over our habit patterns.

In the unguarded moments there is a spontaneous flow from the inner sanctuary of our lives of

“love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control”

(Galatians 5:22-23)

We don’t have to work to be good and kind we are good and kind.

“The quality of mercy is not strained—nor are any of the spiritual virtues once they have taken over the personality”

(William Shakespeare)

the inward disciplines the discipline of meditation
The Inward DisciplinesThe Discipline of Meditation

In contemporary society our Adversary majors in three things:

noise, hurry and crowds

Hurry is not of the Devil; it is the Devil

(Psychiatrist C. G. Jung)

Meditation has always stood as a classical and central part of Christian devotion, a crucial preparation for and adjunct to the work of prayer.

“True contemplation is not a psychological trick but a theological grace.”

(Thomas Merton)

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The Inward DisciplinesThe Discipline of Meditation

Meditation is anything but foreign to the authors of scripture.

“And Isaac went out to meditate in the field in the evening”

(Gen 24:63)

“I think of thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the watches of the night”

(Ps 63:6)

“My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate upon thy promise”

(Ps 119:148)

“delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night”

(Ps 1:2)

These were people who were close to the heart of God.

God spoke to them not because they had special abilities but because they were willing to listen.

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The Inward DisciplinesThe Discipline of Meditation

“What we do with our lives outwardly, how well we care for others, is as much a part of meditation as what we do in the quietness and turning inward.

In fact, Christian meditation that does not make a difference in the quality of one’s outer life is short circuited.

It may flare for awhile, but unless it results in finding richer and more loving relationships with other human beings or in changing conditions in the world that cause human suffering,

the chances are that an individual’s prayer activity will fizzle out.”

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The Inward DisciplinesThe Discipline of Meditation

Desiring the Living Voice of God

Only to sit and think of God,

Oh what a joy it is!

To think the thought, to breath the Name

Earth has no higher bliss

(Frederick W. Faber)

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The Inward DisciplinesThe Discipline of Meditation

Preparing to Meditate

There are no laws to meditation.

There are however many known windows into the inward world.

  • This work involves all of life
    • “Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thess 5:17)
    • Find “holy leisure’ be at peace with your daily activities
  • Find a dedicated time daily
  • Find a place quiet and free from interruption
  • Find a position that is most comfortable and least distracting
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The Inward DisciplinesThe Discipline of Meditation

The First Steps

The inner world of meditation is most easily entered through the door of imagination.

Ignatius of Loyola in his Spiritual exercise constantly encourages his readers to visualize Gospel stories.

A place to begin is our dreams.

  • Specifically pray, inviting God to inform us through our dreams and to protect us
  • Begin to journal our dreams looking for patterns and insights
  • Seek the advice of a spiritual director
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The Inward DisciplinesThe Discipline of Meditation

There is a progression to the spiritual life.

Begin with 5-10 minutes daily

  • It is a time to become still,
  • To enter into the recreating silence,
  • To allow the fragmentation of our mind to become centered.
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The Inward DisciplinesThe Discipline of Meditation

Palms Down

Lord, I give to you….

I release my …

I surrender my…

Whatever it is that weighs on your mind or is a concern to you just say “palms down.” Release it

Palms Up

Lord I would like to receive, your divine love for…

Your peace about…

Your patience

Your joy

Whatever you need to say, you just say, “palms up”

Spend the remaining moments in silence allowing the Lord to commune with your spirit

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The Inward DisciplinesThe Discipline of Meditation

Centering Prayer

Breathing

Sit comfortably, slowly become conscious of your breathing

Inhale deeply, slowly tilting your head back as far as it will comfortably go.

Then exhale, allowing your head slowly to come forward until your chin nearly rests on your chest.

Lord, I exhale my fear…, In inhale your peace

Lord, I exhale my …, I inhale your…

After a few moments become silent outwardly and inwardly.

Be attentive to the inward living Christ.

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The Inward DisciplinesThe Discipline of Meditation

After some weeks add a meditation on scripture

The meditation on scripture becomes the central reference point by which all other meditations are kept in proper perspective.

It is considered by all Christian Spiritual Masters to be the normal foundation for the interior life.

Scripture study focuses on exegesis,

meditation of scripture centers on internalizing and personalizing the passage.

the inward disciplines the discipline of prayer
The Inward DisciplinesThe Discipline of Prayer

Meditation simply introduces us to the inner life.

Prayer brings us into the deepest and highest work of the human spirit.

Real prayer is life creating and life changing

Prayer is the central avenue God uses

to transform us.

The closer we come to the heartbeat of God

the more we see our need and

the more we desire to be conformed to Christ.

Our task in life is to learn to bear God’s

“beams of love.”

(William Blake)

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The Inward DisciplinesThe Discipline of Prayer

When we pray God slowly and graciously reveals to us our hiding places and sets us free from them.

“You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”

(Jas 4:3)

To ask rightly requires transformed passions,

total renewal.

In prayer done rightly we begin to think God’s thoughts after him:

  • To desire the things he desires
  • To love the things he loves.

Progressively we are taught to see things from his point of view.

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The Inward DisciplinesThe Discipline of Prayer

All who have walked with God have viewed prayer as the main business of their lives.

Jesus own lifestyle shows forth its importance:

“And in the morning, a great while before day, he rose and as was his custom went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed.”

(Mk 1:35)

The Apostles took this teaching literally after Jesus death:

“We shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

(Acts 6:4)

God always meets us where we are and slowly moves us along into deeper things.

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The Inward DisciplinesThe Discipline of Prayer

If we discipline ourselves to prayer now we can expect that a year from now we will pray with greater authority and spiritual success.

Paul gladly announced that we are

“co-laborers with Christ.”

(1 Cor 3:9)

  • We work with God to determine the outcome of events.
  • We work with God to determine the future
  • We are to change the world through prayer.

We do not change God’s mind rather he has already taken our prayer into account.

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The Inward DisciplinesThe Discipline of Prayer

Learning to Pray

“Lord teach us to pray.”

(Lk 11:1)

These men had prayed all their lives, in observing Jesus’ praying they discovered how little they knew about prayer.

We must study prayer

  • Seek out the prayers of scripture Old and New
  • Seek out those whose prayer is effective and learn from them
  • Seek the wisdom and experience of past masters of prayer
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The Inward DisciplinesThe Discipline of Prayer

We must conform our prayer to Jesus.

  • He never ended his prayer for others with “if it be Thy will.”
  • When praying for others there is no room for indecisive, tentative, half-hoping
  • Pray for others with an expectation that a change should and would occur

If the prayer is not answered:

  • perhaps we are not asking correctly so try again
  • perhaps something about us must change
  • perhaps we need to learn a new method of prayer
  • perhaps patience and persistence need to be learned
  • perhaps we are blind to the answer

so we listen,

make the necessary adjustments and try again.

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The Inward DisciplinesThe Discipline of Prayer

Listening to God is

the first thing,

the second thing

and the third thing

necessary for successful intercession.

“A man prayed, and at first thought that prayer was talking.

But he became more and more quiet until in the end he realized that prayer is listening.’

(Soren Kiergaard)

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The Inward DisciplinesThe Discipline of Prayer

Meditation is the necessary prelude to intercession.

Intercession, the prayer of faith, presupposes that prayer for guidance is perpetually ascending to the Father.

We must hear, know and obey the will of God before we pray it into the lives of others.

If we are still, we will learn not only who God is but how his power operates.

The prayer of guidance constantly precedes and surrounds the prayer of faith.

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The Inward DisciplinesThe Discipline of Prayer

Sometimes we are afraid we do not have enough faith to pray.

Great miracles are possible through faith the size of a mustard seed.

The courage actually to go and pray for a person is a sign of sufficient faith.

Often our lack is not faith but compassion.

Genuine empathy between the pray-er and the pray-ee makes a difference.

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The Inward DisciplinesThe Discipline of Prayer

Jesus was “moved with compassion” for people.

We do not pray for people as “things” but as “persons” whom we love

If we have God-given compassion and concern for others, our faith will grow and strengthen as we pray.

If we genuinely love people, we desire far more for them than what is in our power to give, only God can help.

So we are moved to pray!

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The Inward DisciplinesThe Discipline of Prayer

An inner sense of compassion,

a rise in the heart,

a compulsion to intercede,

an assurance of rightness,

a flow of the Spirit.

This inner “yes” is the divine authorization for us to pray for the person or situation.

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The Inward DisciplinesThe Discipline of Prayer

Keep prayer simple

Come like children to a loving Father.

Openness, honesty, and trust mark a child’s communication.

Jesus taught us to pray for daily bread;

a child asks for breakfast in utter confidence that it will be provided.

A child does not find it difficult or complicated to talk to his father,

nor do they feel embarrassed to bring the simplest need to his attention.

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The Inward DisciplinesThe Discipline of Prayer

Children teach us the value of imagination.

Imagination opens the door to faith.

If we can “see” in our mind’s eye

a shattered marriage whole

or a sick person well,

It is only a short step

to believing it will be so.

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The Inward DisciplinesThe Discipline of Prayer

Our own children can and should be changed through our prayers.

Pray for them in the daytime with their participation;

Pray for them at night when they are asleep.

Go into the bedroom and lightly place your hands on the sleeping child.

Imagine the light of Christ flowing through your hands and healing every emotional trauma and hurt feeling your child experienced that day.

Fill him or her with the peace and joy of the Lord.

As a priest of Christ, you can perform a wonderful service by taking children into your arms and blessing them.

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The Inward DisciplinesThe Discipline of Prayer

“Units of prayer combined, like drops of water, make an ocean which defies resistance.”

(Thomas Merton)

Prayer is like work.

We may not feel like working but once we’ve been at awhile, we begin to feel like working.

We need not worry that this work will take too much of our time.

It takes no time, but it occupies all our time.

It is not prayer in addition to work, but prayer simultaneous with work.

We precede, enfold and follow all our work with prayer.

the inward disciplines the discipline of fasting
The Inward DisciplinesThe Discipline of Fasting

Scripture has so much to say about fasting that we would do well to look at this ancient Discipline

Biblical personages who fasted are a veritable Who’s Who of scripture:

Moses, David, Elijah, Esther, Daniel, Anna, Paul, and Jesus among others.

This list of names in itself should give us enough pause to at least look-in to fasting.

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The Inward DisciplinesThe Discipline of Fasting

Biblical fasting always centers on spiritual purposes.

Fasts can be abstaining or reducing, selective or complete, short or prolonged.

In most cases fasting is a private matter between the individual and God but group fast can also be wonderful and powerful.

Fasting and Abstinence are integrally tied to Atonement.

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The Inward DisciplinesThe Discipline of Fasting

The Purpose of Fasting

More than any other Discipline,

fasting reveals the things that controls us.

“I humbled myself with fasting.”

(Ps 69:10)

Anger, bitterness, jealousy, strife, fear—if they are within us, they will surface during fasting.

Fasting helps us keep our balance in life.

How quickly we allow nonessentials to take precedence in our lives.

Our human cravings and desires are like a river that tends to overflow its banks;

fasting helps keep them in their proper channel.

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The Inward DisciplinesThe Discipline of Fasting

Fasting must forever center on God.

It must be God-initiated and God-ordained.

The Practice of Fasting

It is wise to learn to walk well before we run.

A progression should be observed.

Begin with a partial fast of twenty-four hours or less perhaps lunch to lunch.

This means hydrate but skip two meals.

Monitor your inner attitude of worship

Every purpose must be subservient to God.

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The Inward DisciplinesThe Discipline of Fasting

In a new way, cause every task of the day to be a sacred ministry to the Lord.

Outwardly you will be performing the regular duties of your day,

But inwardly you will be in prayer and adoration, song and worship.

However ordinary your duties, let them become for you a sacrament a sacrificial offering.

Cultivate a “gentle receptiveness to divine breathings.”

Break your fast with a light meal of fresh fruit and vegetables and a good deal of inner rejoicing at God’s gifts.

the inward disciplines the discipline of study
The Inward DisciplinesThe Discipline of Study

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is anything worthy of praise,

think about these things.”

(Phil 4:8)

The discipline of study is the primary vehicle to bring us to

“think about these things”

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The Inward DisciplinesThe Discipline of Study

Bondage to fears and anxieties occur simply because we don’t take the time to discover the truth

Jesus made it unmistakably clear that it is knowledge of the truth that will set us free.

“You will know the truth and the truth will make you free.”

(Jn. 8:32)

Without knowledge of the truth,

we will not be free.

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The Inward DisciplinesThe Discipline of Study

What is Study?

Study is a specific kind of experience in which through careful observation of objective truths we cause our thought processes to move towards even deeper truth.

Our thought processes take on an order conforming us to the truth.

The Old testament instructs that the laws be written on gates and doorposts, and bound to the wrists so that

“they shall be frontlets between your eyes.”

(Deut 11:18)

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The Inward DisciplinesThe Discipline of Study

What is Study?

The New Testament replaces laws written on the doorposts with laws written on the heart

and leads us to Jesus,

our ever-present and inward teacher.

The ingrained habits of thought that are formed will conform to the order of the thing being studied.

What we study determines what kind of habits are to be formed.

Let our studies be of Jesus Christ and His Church.

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The Inward DisciplinesThe Discipline of Study

The Four Steps to Study

  • Repetition regularly channels the mind in a specific direction thus ingraining habits of thought
  • Concentration centers the mind and focuses its attention o the thing being studied.
  • Comprehensionleads to insight and discernment with repetition of the truth and concentration upon it in time we come to understand what we are studying
  • Reflectiondefines the significance of what we are studying. It brings us to see things from God’s perspective
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The Inward DisciplinesThe Discipline of Study

Study teaches us humility.

“And this is eternal life, that they know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.”

(Jn. 17:3)

Even a touch of this experiential knowledge is sufficient to give us a profound sense of humility.

The first and most important book we are to study is the Bible.

The second are the writings and traditions of the Church.

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The Inward DisciplinesThe Discipline of Study

“How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to thy word,

I have laid up thy word in my heart,

that I might not sin against thee.”

(Ps 119:9,11)

“All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

(2 Tim 3:16, 17)

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The Inward DisciplinesThe Discipline of Study

"Ask and it will be given to you;

seek and you will find;

knock and the door will be opened to you.

For everyone who asks, receives;

and the one who seeks, finds;

and to the one who knocks,

the door will be opened.”

(Mt 7:7-9)

What more needs to be said concerning the need for study!

Consider each interaction with scripture to be a mini-retreat meant to impact and change who you are.