This last week has been a doozey! VBS was all consuming and took over most of my focus for the week. I've missed my routine and am so looking forward to being back in the order of it once again. I tried to continue my regular prayer and bible study but was not completely successful and I am beginning to feel the effect of it.
I posted a few weeks ago about a spiritual challenge of disciplined prayer I had entered into. In the midst of that process God has taught me so much about the value of the spiritual disciplines. The Spirit's fruit of self-control is not the same as being a controlling person or 'control freak'. The source, motivation and results of the fruit of self-control are different than natural human control. I'm afraid we as a society are given more to self indulgence than self control. I'm afraid also that that tendency has crept into the church as well.
Anyhow, I'm coming to understand that times of experiencing God's presence, times of deep personal growth, times of incredible life change as a person or corporate body don't come without ground work. So often I think we as Christians spend a few minutes flinging prayers out at God, a few minutes reading a few verses in the Bible and we expect results. We expect deliverance from depression, we expect to know God's will, we expect to feel joy, to be able to control our temper, lose weight, be successful in relationships, kick a habit. That kind of life change and victory takes actual concentrated focus and work. It takes discipline. But the results are worth it. The results are a life focused on God and not ourselves, the result is a muscular Christian.
Not that I'm saying spiritual discipline is something we can do in our own power. Self-control is a fruit that comes from the Spirit. A life of discipline, of self denial, of practicing spirituality comes from first of all yielding to the Holy Spirit. He works out the change in us but we are willing participants.
This week I experienced some of the fruit of having been disciplined in my prayer and bible study in the weeks leading up to this last busy week of VBS. I found that I was more prepared to handle the things I had to deal with, I had a spiritual reserve to draw from. I also experienced contentment and joy in the midst of situations and fatigue that normally would have made me cranky and critical. It's true that by the end of the week and after a weekend of a sick child it was beginning to take it's toll. But today I find myself eager to put it behind me and get back in the saddle again. Instead of 'veg' for a few days and just let things slide I'm eager to focus my eyes back on his face. I'm desiring to get back to that hard work of spiritual training.
So far I have to say the biggest result of my 40 days of prayer has been change in myself. I'm still hopeful and believing I will see answers to big prayers. But I'm aware that my will is changing it's shape to that of God's as I pray and if nothing else comes of it, that's enough and pretty miraculous in and of itself.