New Years Resolution comes in many forms. People wanting to get rid of bad habits, or develop a good habit. Why not begin by what matters most with our faith in the Lord? Let’s start there!
One of the benefits of thinking about “developing good habits” is to remember the practices of the ancient church. What the Reformation took away from many of our traditions is the unity of the seven major practices of the church – the first was communion, the second tithing, and the third was fasting. These have largely survived the divide between Protestant and Catholic. The next four major practices mainly have been lost.
- Lectio – First, select a short passage, and then with a listening heart, slowly and deliberately read the text aloud. When you find a phrase that speaks to your heart, pause in your reading. Robby Gallaty uses the discipline of study of HEAR, 1) Highlight 2) Explain 3) Apply 4) Respond. By highlighting the scripture text that stands out, whatever study that one may be involved allows these principles to be the guard rails in discipleship, you and I can do whatever we want to read books and listen sermons, but the Bible is really the baseline all the way.
- Meditatio – Second, meditate or reflect upon the words. Think about them. What do they mean? What does the passage say? Allow God to settle the truth of His word into your soul. Allow it to probe your attitude, emotions, and aspirations. This is the process of the initial questions 1) Why? 2) Why? 3) What? by Implication/Interpretation stage that focus internally that drives the text into our mind.
- Oratio – Third, return the passage you have just read to the Father by praising Him for its work in you. Talk to the Father about your reading. Pray the words, interact with God, and ask the Holy Spirit to teach you the special applications for your life. ACTS is helpful in the practice of liturgy of 1) Adoration 2) Confession 3) Thanksgiving 4) Supplication. Each practice comes to the idea of declaring / confessing orally which many of the churches have lost in the modern era.
- Contemplatio – The final stage is resting in the Lord’s presence. This is the act of simply being with God. Review your immediate life, attitudes, and conflicts. Now live what you have read. The fourth has to do as well with the hours of the day that the church would pray – according to Jewish tradition, they would pray six times a day: prayer would be at six, nine, noon, three, six, and at retiring. This was also the practice of the early church – though they would only stop and pray for minute or two, they did faithfully pray.