Your Most Important Goal-Setting Activity

Question: What is your most important goal setting activity?

Answer: Your friendship with God!

In terms of pure goal setting, Christian goal setting shares the same techniques as secular goal setting. There is nothing wrong with that: Christians don’t operate their cars differently from non-Christians, they order off menus the same way, and they take the same medicines when they’re sick. Goal setting, like cars, restaurants and health, simply works along similar lines. But Christian goal setting is a great deal more than simply meeting objectives, because as Christians we set our goals within the context of 1) our relationship with the Risen Christ and 2) our God-given life purpose.

I am firmly in the “once saved, always saved” camp. I believe that at the moment of conversion, dramatic or not, you are a changed creature and the grace of God covers and saves you. But living out your salvation and growing in Christ take continued effort — just like any good thing does.

There are several vital practices that maintain and grow your relationship with God. I would argue that prayer, Bible study and corporate worship are the top three. Obedience is important too and so is living as righteous a life as you can muster. Other things are important depending on the individual: creativity and imagination, giving and generosity, living the spiritual gifts and cultivating the fruits of the Spirit.

I have found one method of prayer in particular to be absolutely crucial to my Christian growth. The type of prayer dates back to the early church and uses the imagination to reach deeply into our hearts and minds. This type of prayer allows Christ to touch us at our deepest levels. I call this “imaging prayer.”

February 11, 2015Permalink

The Listening Way

I lead a small Bible study and prayer group at my church. Yesterday morning one of our members was having a true crisis and did not know where to turn or what to do.

Our usual format is to come together to study a Gospel story and then in silence individually pray the story to God, allowing Him to enter into our imaginations. But I felt strongly as this sister in Christ shared the depth of her pain that we needed to do something different. I felt the Holy Spirit remind me about the Society of Friends (Quaker) meetings where the group goes into silent prayer before making a decision — for at least an hour! We had ten minutes! But I knew the Holy Spirit would bless and guide what He wanted us to do.

The group gathered around our friend and entered into silent prayer with the express purpose of listening for the word of God for her. At the end of that short time God led us to say different words — some from the Bible, some from the spiritual gifts of discernment and wisdom, and many of pure love and support.

God is so good. Don’t forget (like I too often do) to listen for the still small voice of God!

February 11, 2015Permalink

When God Talks

My best friend has the spiritual gift of prophecy. I may need to explain that a bit: Christian prophecy is not just foretelling the future, although God can grant that if He wishes. It has much more to do with seeing the power of God at work in the world, envisioning the spiritual battles that rage all around us, and with communicating the miraculous power and message of God to His people.

One of the lessons that I teach around Christian goal setting centers around Psalm 37:4: “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” I believe that our desires are our deepest values, the holy touchstones that God created in each one of us. One person’s values and deepest desires may be service, compassion, family; another’s may be beauty, leadership, security; still another’s may be freedom, growth, meaning. We all have them, although in our sin we can try to live them out badly! But God created the values within each individual, and He firmly tied the fulfillment of our values to our relationship with Him. (You can read more about this in my article on “The Deep Desires of Your Heart.”)

My friend’s spiritual gift and my teaching were brought together the other day. I was having lunch with my friend and she mentioned that she had been given a word from God. It had to do with hope in a financial situation, but it didn’t seem to apply to her. Maybe it was for me? She told me the message: “Be obedient and I will give you the desires of your heart.”

The miraculous part? I had never mentioned my teaching on desires of the heart to her before, and she didn’t know the verse from Psalms. She did not know the term in her own wisdom.

God did.

February 11, 2015Permalink

Journaling Prayer

When you practice listening/imaging prayer, you will want to record what God tells you.

One of the most important things you can do for your imaging prayer is to record it. If you already keep a journal then add your prayer experiences to it. If you have not kept a journal before, then this is the perfect time to start one.

Your journal can take many forms: it can be a bound, blank book, or loose-leaf pages gathered into a binder, or a spiral-bound notebook, or a computer file. Use whatever tool is most comfortable for you. Don’t be concerned with handwriting (unless you absolutely cannot read your own) or spelling or sentence structure.

What can you write in the journal about your imaging prayers? Start with writing down what you experienced. Even if you stop there, you have honored your prayer time by writing it down. Ask God to help you understand what he wants you to know.

Ask yourself questions about your experience. What was your mood in the prayer? How do you feel now? Did you resist a situation? Did something upset you? Did something surprise you? Turn over all of your feelings to Christ.

If you want to go deeper, you can use visual art or writing. Write a poem or a story, sculpt or paint. You can also find a physical object to symbolize your encounter. A seashell might symbolize you and Jesus by the seaside as he says, “Follow Me.” A cross might symbolize an encounter with Jesus at his Crucifixion.

List anything that God wants you to do as a result of the prayer. These tasks may center on healing, relationships, the fruits of the Spirit, courage, picking up your cross to follow Jesus, your spiritual gifts – however God is working with you.

 

February 8, 2015Permalink

Keep a Prayer Journal

I haven’t successfully kept a prayer journal for a long time. Mind you, I pray and I see miraculous answers to prayer. But I’m not good at recording these answers in any sort of methodical way. And I want to.

I ran across an excellent article by Christian writer and speaker Crystal McDowell that talks about prayer journaling and growing closer to God. Below I’ve listed her 7 points; there is much more in the article. Check it out.

1. Begin with prayer for God’s guidance
2. Find a quiet place for reflection and meditation
3. Search for a scripture(s) that correspond with your prayer request and write it out at the top of the page
4. Think about what you can give thanks to God in your prayer request
5. Write out your prayer requests with specificity
6. Praise God for hearing and answering your request in accordance with His will
7. Remember to go back and write in your journal how God answered in His perfect timing

“Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” (Deuteronomy 4:9)

November 6, 2014Permalink