“That is why the real problem of the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it. It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings; coming in out of the wind. We can only do it for moments at first. But from those moments the new sort of life will be spreading through our system” C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
Last week I shared four great places to start building a daily spiritual practice. I commented how after I followed the same techniques I yearned for additional spiritual time each morning. In this week’s post I will share a plethora of additional options for you to expand your holy hour. Once adopted, these spiritual disciplines will spread from a short period in the morning and begin to improve your entire day!
So let’s get right into it.
After reading my Bible each morning I reach for my phone and open the special prayer note I’ve created. The note is setup with a different prayer focus for each day of the week:
- Sunday: My wife
- Monday: My immediate family
- Tuesday: My extended family
- Wednesday: Neighbors, my community, and my church
- Thursday: Co-workers and clients
- Friday: International, national and local politicians and our armed forces
- Saturday: My friends
The note is full of the above folks written out by name. And throughout the week when I hear of prayer needs in my community I add them to my note. This helps prevent me from praying for the same few things every single day and encourages me to pray wider and include everyone in my life. Cycling through the same prayers each week has helped me realized how blessed I am and how many of my prayers have been answered! And it gives me a time to praise God for helping my friend get through her knee surgery, for healing my dear friend that tested positive for COVID, and helping my wife to get through a tough season at her work.
My friend Trent Holbert wisely asks in his book The Food god, “How many times have you thought about eating today? How many times have you thought about God today?” It was not his intention to make us feel guilty with this question, but instead make it clear that we need to do a better job of praying throughout the day. I have built habits of praying right when I wakeup, just before I fall asleep, and I pray before each meal. But there are definitely additional times I can pause to pray.
Prayer can’t just be something to check off and say, “Ok! Praying is done for the day, onto the next thing on my list.” And it is important to not have all your prayers pre-planned. Sometimes you need to just sit quietly and listen. Allow the Lord to speak to you. And talk to Him as you talk to your friends.
Every morning I schedule at least 15 minutes of refreshing movement. This allows my body to wakeup, my muscles to stretch, and sets the foundation for good movement habits the rest of my day. I end up being lazy all day long when I sit on the couch curled up under a blanket, drink a second cup of coffee, and don’t do my morning movement.
When I prioritize these 15 minutes of morning movement I’ll end up doing kettlebell swings, pushups, and dips every hour, take a walk after lunch, have a full workout at 4pm, and take a walk with my wife after dinner.
Are you noticing a theme here? Your habits in the morning are critical to winning the day.
What’s great is that my morning movements aren’t complicated or taxing to my body. Therefore it is easy for me to continue my meditation and prayer at the same time. I can think about the Lord and what I am grateful for while I am on the floor foam rolling. Its simple on a morning walk to pause and watch the birds, enjoy the sun shining on my face, look at the alligator in the pond, observe the way the Spanish moss draped from the ancient live oak trees sways in the breeze, and breath in God’s love for me and this world. Its really about being present on the walk and not listening to a podcast, making to-do lists for the day, and thinking about the conversation I need to have with a co-worker later that day. There is a time for all of that, just not when you are kicking off your day!
“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time.”Annie Dillard
Guided with Abide
Another good option for those of you with a longer commute to the office is the Abide app.
Abide is a Bible meditation app with a different speaker, scripture, and prompt each day. You can choose the free 2-minute meditation, or a premium 5, 10, or 15 minute version. I have found this app to be a great help during chaotic mornings when I have a hard time sticking to my normal routine. I can always find five minutes in the morning even if it is while I am brushing my teeth and getting dressed. My wife and I like to listen to the daily abide meditation together before she leaves to goto work.
Why listen to the news or a morning talk show when you can be filled with affirming scripture instead? What type of energy will flow from you when you get to the office if you focus your commute on the Lord?
The momentum from your morning carries you through the whole day. When your morning is positive, uplifting, and God-filled you are likely to display the fruits of the Spirit:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”Galatians 5:22,23
The alternative is to display the fruits of the flesh. And when I choose to spend my morning scrolling on social media, reading the news, and I skip my holy hour these are the types behaviors I tend to exhibit:
“sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like”Galatians 5:19
What fruits do you wish to display to your friends, family, and co-workers? No one wakes up and says, “I’m going to be nasty today, jump to conclusions, and assume the worst from all my peers.” So somewhere between when we wakeup and when we get to work something changes. And having a strong holy hour to start the day off right will give you a better chance at successfully navigating the difficulties of the modern workplace.
Justin Whitmel Earley shares in The Common Rule, “Actually, by barraging ourselves with so many choices, we get so decision-fatigued that we’re unable to choose anything well. Since we’re too tired to make any good decisions, we’re extremely susceptible to letting other people—from manipulative bosses to invisible smartphone programmers—make our decisions for us.”
“When we fast, we become more attuned to the stubborn reality of the world’s suffering. Many of our neighbors’ sufferings are hanging out there in the open, and they need to be seen. Confronted. Named. Especially by those like me who do not suffer as they do.”The Common Rule, by Justin Whitmel Earley.
As I shared in my summary of Fasting for Spiritual Breakthrough, fasting can be fantastic tool for taking your holy hour to another level. But it is important that fasting is a choice for a predetermined time, not just that you aren’t eating right now. You must set aside and schedule time while making a conscious effort not to eat for a particular reason.
Is it so you may earnestly pray for a friend whom is sick? So you can meditate over the Bible without any distractions? To create space for God’s wisdom to come upon you during a particularly challenging season at the office?
Or is it just to show your gratitude to God for the fact that unlike much of the world you have the choice to not eat and will still be okay. Much of the world does not have that choice. According to FAO’s 2020 state of food security and nutrition in the world report a shocking 690 million people, or 8.9 percent of the world, are undernourished.
Fasting has become mainstream in the health and wellness community for its curative powers. The Christian community needs be leading the charge in bringing fasting back to the forefront as a spiritual discipline.
“If every Christian fasted, the results could shake our society like a windstorm bending a sapling. Christians would demonstrate that they live differently, that their faith is imperative, that the Almighty works in their daily lives.”Fasting for Spiritual Breakthrough, by Elmer L. Towns
Worshiping with Music
I’ve created a playlist on YouTube full of worship music lyric videos. Here are some of my favorites:
- Cory Asbury, Reckless Love
- Keith Green, Asleep in the light
- Zealand, Liberated
- Hillsong Worship, Cornerstone
While cooking dinner my wife and I often flip open my laptop and navigate to my YouTube list and start worshiping. I will find myself dancing around the house, banging the drums on our furniture, throwing my hands in the air, and belting the lyrics out at the top of my lungs.
It feels great, I feel completely energized and a wave of positivity flows through me from my toes to the hairs on top of my head. This section of the post was difficult to write because I started listening to the above songs and I got up when Jordan Feliz’s The River started playing and danced around the living room… Singing loud enough for my neighbors to hear without a care in the world how I sounded.
You can do the same. It doesn’t have to be in your living room on full blast, it can be in your car, on your iPod, or in your office with the door closed. Better yet… I dare you to worship with the door wide open! You never know who might wander in and join you.
We will work with each otherBy Our Love, by For King and Count
We will work side by side
We will work with each other
We will work side by side
And we will guard each other’s dignity
And save each other’s pride
And they’ll know we are Christians
By our love, by our love
Yes, they’ll know we are Christians
By our love, by our love
Yes, they’ll know we are Christians
By our love, by our love
Yes, They’ll know we are Christians
By our love (love, love), Oh, Oh
Breathwork and Sitting Quietly
I’ve briefly touched on the importance of spending time alone in silence and allowing God to speak to us. But this exercise allows you to take yourself to another level!
One of my favorite ways to sit quietly is through breath work and there are two that I tend to use most often. The first is hollotropic breath work. Which is a fancy term for a simple concept. The exercise safely guides you through breathing in two counts and breathing out four counts for about 10 minutes followed by a breath hold. Here is what I shared after one such session:
“This morning while I was completing a hollotropic breath work session from the Soma Awareness 21-day program my eyes welled up in tears as I was connecting with the divine within, the Holy Spirit.
I could feel an ounce of God’s love and it felt amazing! Here I am, someone that is imperfect with many flaws, weaknesses, and sinful tendencies and still I felt just a tiny bit of how much God loves me exactly as I am. It was an unbelievable realization which should be something I always comprehend. The Bible is full of examples of how much God loves us as we are and how we were created in His perfect image.”
Soma is a more advanced version of breathwork, but there is a simpler way you can start and you should try it right now. It is called box breathing– which I first read about in retired Navy SEAL and founder of SEALFIT, Mark Divine’s book Unbeatable Mind.
Start by exhaling all of the air from the lungs. Now inhale to a count of five, and then retain and hold your breath to a count of five. Don’t clamp down and create back-pressure with this hold. Just stop the inhale but continue the upward rise of the chest. After the retention, exhale the air slowly to a count of five, and then suspend and hold the exhaled breath for a count of five…
The technique can be used in short 1-3 minute “spot drills” several times a day or before an important meeting or event.”
I have found box breathing to be a fantastic tool to calm me down when I am anxious, a way to center me before reading my Bible, and overall just a good way to be more present and aware of my overall feelings. It is also a great way to quiet all the thoughts that are constantly swirling around my head and open myself up listen. When I am successful here I can ask God for wisdom on a problem I am trying to solve or allow Him to make it clear that I am heading in the wrong direction.
There are many other ways to use breath as a way to bring you closer to Jesus. But these two options should get you started. My friend Ben Greenfield wrote 5 ways a breath work practice can make your life better. And his article is full of useful tips to take your breath work to another level:
“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord, indeed. I am a miracle, you are a miracle, and our bodies – including our respiratory systems – are absolutely also miracles. You should be in awe and thankful for the magical complexity of breath every day. I recommend you begin by silently thanking God with each and every breath that you take when you engage in a daily mindful breathing habit, even if just for one minute. Eventually, this emotion of gratitude will subconsciously become woven into every breath you take.”
The more you focus on your spiritual health the more success you will see in other areas of your life. Are you struggling at work? Is your diet falling off? Are skipping your workouts? Is your home life not where you’d like it to be?
If you answered yes to any of those questions I challenge you to start with the tools I’ve provided you in these posts.
Between this post and last weeks post on holy hour for beginners I have shared ten ways you can improve your spiritual disciplines. I pray that you choose a couple of these that appeal to you and get going.
Don’t wait until tomorrow. Start right now!
What additional techniques do you find useful? Share them in the comments below.