Discipleship is a life-long journey of becoming like Jesus in every way.
A clear outcome of discipleship is the forming of holy habits, which are means of grace by which the Spirit of God brings inner transformation of hearts and minds. These habits must become like well-trodden pathways in our walk with Christ.
What are some of these holy habits, and how can we grow in them while seeking to encourage and share the same with those we are discipling?
Before I continue, let me first provide a disclaimer: the life of faith and these habits are not a matter of religious performances in order to win something from God, but a response to undeserved riches bestowed upon us in Christ. We work, not to be saved, but because we are saved. Our work and holy living follows on completely from what God has done in us, the consequences of the finished work of Christ in saving and redeeming us on the cross. Nevertheless, the rhythms and habits of our outward lives can affect our inward lives.
And because He did, we can do. Consequently, we work out what God works into us with obedience, diligence, and not a little fear of God (as Paul exhorts us in Philippians 2:12-13). We do the works that have been prepared for us to walk in (Ephesians 2:10).
In teaching holy habits in the life of discipleship, we expect that their regular practice will help us stay connected to or abide daily in Christ, and to walk with one another as God’s holy people in mission to a lost world.
I have found it immensely helpful to use the acronym PROMISE to capture the main seven habits that I believe we must practice before and teach to those we are discipling. And so we will look at briefly each of them in this series of blogs.
I like the word ‘promise’ because a promise requires trust and commitment. At baptism and confirmation, we make promises to God to reject the way of the world, the devil and sin, and to submit to Jesus as Lord and Savior. And if the Christian life is to bear fruit in the promises we have made, then it must show forth consistently in the particular things we say and do, to the glory of God.
The first habit that we must nurture in ourselves and the disciples we make by teaching and modeling is:
P – prayer. What a gift this holy habit is! Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we have access by faith to the very presence of God, ushered in as we are by His unmerited grace and favor. Prayer is more than mere talking to God, but real relationship with Him.
It has been said that ‘Prayer is like breathing – people who don’t are dead!’ And like breathing, it needs to be an automatic, regular and moment by moment feature of the life of discipleship. How often do we pray, in private and with other believers?
Jesus modeled a life of constant prayer (Mark 1:25, Luke 5:16, Matthew 14:23). He taught that He only did what He saw His Father doing and spoke what He heard His Father saying (John 5:19 & 8:28).
In this, as in the other habits, we have a lot to learn from our master disciple, Jesus, who showed and taught often on the importance of all aspects of prayer. For example:
1) prayer as effectual: Mathew 7:7-11; Matthew 21:22; Mark 11:24; John 14:13-14, 15:16, 16:23-24;
2) prayer as secret and private: Matt. 6:6; Mark 1:35; Matt. 14:23; Luke 5:16; Luke 6:12, 9:18; 22:39-41;
3) prayer as communal: Matt. 18:19; Luke 9:28; Matt. 17:1; Mark 9:2; and
4) prayer as intercession for others: John 17:9-26.
The model prayer that Jesus left us, the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), teaches us to bring the ingredients of worship, confession, petition, and requests as necessary ingredients of our daily conversation with God, recognizing first and foremost that because of Jesus, we can call him ‘our Father’. Prayer is the language of intimacy in God’s family.
As a baby grows up, she learns both to listen and to speak. So, we who are born again into God’s family, must grow and learn the holy habit of speaking and listening to God daily.