This is less theology, I suppose; or rather it’s a practical application of theology. I wanted to spend a few words on devotional practices, and invite you to comment on your own practices as well. I will shamelessly incorporate any good ideas into my own spiritual life. I hope the tone of this doesn’t come across as braggadocios. My devotional life is certainly not worth bragging about. I often lose myself to work and school and social events, and don’t set aside proper time for God. Remember that someone’s “instagram” life and their real life are very different. This is me on my better days.
The study of Scripture is very important to me. I try to read daily, but I’m not a very organized study kind of guy. I usually approach topics and themes, or books individually. While I’ve read the entirety of Scripture, I don’t think I’ve ever read cover-to-cover straight through.
Right now I’m taking a little time each day to work on a translation of the Vulgate. My Latin training isn’t quite finished, so there are plenty of parts with which I struggle, but I have found that the translation process is quite illuminating. I’ve been working through John and I’m considering putting my translation up if all goes well.
The important thing for me when reading Scripture is context. I don’t read verses individually, I read stretches and passages and chapters and books. I try to parse the arguments of Paul, or the narrative flow of the Gospels. I read seeking understanding, always trying to use the text to challenge my beliefs.
As with most things in my life, my prayer life is also less organized than it ought to be. I try to spend a little time each day with a personal liturgy-inspired prayer: The Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, a prayer from the Small Catechism, a time of silent meditation. I find that liturgy focuses my mind and follows a evermore familiar rhythm. I have to submit my ego to the Word of God. It’s very freeing. My wife and I have a little family liturgy before bed. When baby gets here, we’ll have a liturgy for three.
I’ve written about fasting before, so I won’t rehash all of that here. I bring this up more to say that I have found fasting to be an incredibly useful discipline. I like the extra time it gives me and the mental sharpness I develop.
Church Fathers and other saints.
I think a sad fact is that many Christians neglect the Church Fathers. Now, I’m not saying that we should approve of everything that they said. I disagree with them about veneration of the Saints, for instance. But these are men who have walked the entirety of this path, and from whom we may learn much. They knew Scripture in ways which we could only hope to know it. Many of them faced persecution, exile, and martyrdom, and were rewarded with the crown of righteousness. To read the Fathers is to drink from deep springs.
I love Chrysostom, personally. Every Easter I hear his famed Paschal Homily as many times as possible. Right now I’m also trying to translate St. Anselm’s Proslogion, which is very slow going because his Latin is, in many ways, far beyond my grasp. I may have to come back to that after the semester is out, but it is a fun challenge, at any rate.
One devotional tool I really enjoy is the Treasury of Daily Prayer. It combines liturgical readings of the Old Testament, a Psalm, the New Testament, some hymnody, some quote of a Lutheran reformer or Church Father, and prayers. It also reminds you of feast days for saints (which is another helpful devotional tool in my opinion) and other important events in the Christian Church. It comes with helpful layouts for various liturgical settings as well. There’s an iPhone app called PrayNow for $8.99 which is, to my knowledge, the same content, but interactive. I enjoy the physical book, personally.
That’s it for now, I suppose. If you have any particular practices you find helpful, feel free to share them below. Of course, please note that the comments below do not necessarily have my endorsement. Anyone can put anything they want on the internet.