Over the summer, I was challenged to engage in a daily spiritual discipline for two consecutive weeks, keeping a personal journal of the process. I chose the spiritual discipline of journaling at least one prayer every day for two weeks. Journaling my prayers is something I have always wanted to do consistently. I have done it from time to time in the past, but never consistently and deliberately like I did over the two weeks this summer.
There were some benefits of practicing this discipline. I found it beneficial to write out my prayers because it influenced me to be more thoughtful and organized with my prayers. Before I started practicing this discipline, I would pray randomly throughout the day and then pray at night before bed. My random prayers throughout the day really were random thoughts or feelings I wanted to share with God on the spot. My prayer before bed at night was supposed to be more robust, thoughtful, and deliberate. However, some nights I would be so worn out emotionally or mentally that I just could not spend the energy on having a deeper, intimate, thoughtful prayer with God. Instead of being deliberate about some things I wanted to talk to him about (that I even have recorded in the “Prayers” section of my Logos software), I would take a shortcut and express one main point on my mind and call it good. Part of me wished I had more time and energy to spend with God, but part of me thought it was fine because He knew what was on my heart without me having to intentionally express it every day. So, when I journaled my prayers, most of the time, it forced me to have a more intentional and thoughtful conversation with God.
The detriment to this became the battle with the Spirit and my flesh and legalism. After a certain point during the two weeks, I did start to have a few “lazy” nights where I was mentally and emotionally drained and could only journal just a main thought and that was it. Sometimes it was as short as one sentence long. One night, I just plain did not do it because I was so tired. What is interesting to me here is I am still not completely certain how to evaluate this behavior. At first, I thought my flesh was winning the battle against the Spirit because I was getting lazy with my spiritual discipline. However, after some of thought, I began to look at it with a different perspective. That was with the perspective of legalism being an influence. I realized that perhaps I was feeling unnecessary guilt because the sin of legalism was rearing its ugly head and making me feel as though if I did not do my spiritual discipline, I was not as Holy or would not be as blessed.
Overall, I think the experience was very beneficial from both points of view though. I think the times I did practice the discipline, I grew closer to God and became more in step with the Spirit because I was being more faithful and opening myself up more to God and to be led by the Spirit. However, I thought it was also beneficial to see how it made me feel when I got “lazy” or the one time I did not do the discipline, and think about how legalism affects my everyday life and the disciplines I do try to implement. So, what I will keep in mind the next time I am intentionally engaging in spiritual disciplines or even noticing myself inadvertently engaging, is how beneficial it can be to be disciplined and become more engaged in God and the Holy Spirit, but also that it is ok if I slack off from time to time because it does not make me any less Holy or blessed. God still knows my heart and His will is still going to happen regardless. I am sure He would still prefer more engagement as any of us would, but He is also not going to force us to practice a certain discipline for a certain amount of time. He gave us freedom and free will, and it is ok to cherish that to avoid the sin of legalism and circumvent the joy, love, and peace that comes with the freedom and free will.