We all need skills and habits to do any sport, job, or activity well. Being a disciple of Jesus also takes skills which become habits. You can think of your focus on this just like a music technique class or a skills day of soccer. When you focus on a skill, you become free to use it in the game of life. After a bit of practice, you will notice in your heart whether this is a practice you would like to do regularly.
If you are not already used to doing these things regularly, get excited! You are about to discover more of God. Here are some of the most effective Christian practices, a person can implement daily, no matter what your circumstances.
Basic Discipleship Practices to Learn:
- …make a morning offering
- …read to discover Christ
- …intercede with small sacrifices
- …speak about God
- …examine my day with God’s light
A morning offering is a little prayer that you say within the first few moments of getting up. Basically, you are dedicating your life to God at the start of each day. Typically, a morning offering has the elements of thanking God, offering everything from the upcoming day to Him and union with Jesus. Many saints have written prayers which are good for the morning offering. For more direction, go to www.catholic.org and search for “morning offering”. Or, you can write your own and put it by your bedside or speak one each morning from the heart. For you perhaps it will be kneeling down the moment you wake up, humming the line of a praise song or touching the feet of Jesus on the crucifix in your room. There are billions of ways to do this. The point is to go to God first thing in the morning and offer yourself.
Reading to discover Christ
God has so much to give us! In what part of your life do you want more joy? What virtue do you long for? What is Jesus asking of you at this point? Daily reading a Christian book can consistently bring peace and guidance in a way that speaks right to you. The “skills” involved here are: figuring out how to pick a good thing to read for yourself, learning when reading works in your schedule and listening with your heart as you read. Just try 5 minutes a day. But of course, sometimes a good book is hard to put down!
When we encounter the Word of God through Scripture and Tradition, we encounter God Himself. Reading the bible is incredible but it can also be very difficult. Also, this article has some good suggestions: http://lifeteen.com/blog/how-to-start-reading-the-bible/
The stories of the lives of the saints, the catechism, Christian books, devotionals, apps and podcasts also bring us the Word in a way that makes sense to our lives. For suggestions on good books, try www.sophiainstitute.com, www.catholiccompany.com or www.ignatius.com. They all have plenty of good books for kids, teens and adults.
Intercession with Small Sacrifices
By doing everything in life for God, we carry Jesus’ cross with Him and we help to save the world. Did you know that you can dramatically help people in Syria, in prison, in a famine? You feed them, free them, comfort them with your loving sacrifices. Likewise, the people in your life- your family, friends, teachers are helped every time you draw near to God in sacrifice. Little things- like smiling, obeying a teacher or parent right away, letting another person go first, good posture, giving a bite of your dessert to your dad. These are all active sacrifices – things you chose to do. There are also passive sacrifices – cheerfully eating the dried chicken your mom made, walking in the rain on the way home without complaining, patiently enduring bothersome habits of siblings. These are situations in life with a little suffering that come up without you wanting it. When you embrace it as a way of love it becomes a powerful passive sacrifice. When you say a 1 second prayer as you do these thing, “for you Jesus”, “for children in the hospital” or whatever words come up, your prayers are very powerful. Daily doing little sacrifices for others also helps prevent us from growing selfish or attached to this world. Try 1 or 2 a day. The number and kind will change depending on the season of your life.
Speaking about God
Jesus told us to go out into the world and make disciples of all nations. You don’t need to know all the things in the catechism before you can share the love of Christ with others. Your bold love is what lights the way for friends, family and even strangers. Don’t hide your Christianity. It can feel super hard sometimes to speak the name of Jesus. But, what will happen if we don’t? Or, think about what will happen if we do. We were given a relationship with Jesus not only for ourselves but also so we can bring others into relationship with God. Much, much more often, than speaking about Jesus, you will share the love of God with others without even using words. You’ve been working on that for your whole life. Good. Keep doing that. It is vital. Words without action and love are dead. But we also need to speak it.
To work on the skill of speaking about Christ, try saying something about God every day. Start with your family. Here are some ideas to try: “Don’t worry, mom/dad/sis/bro, Jesus will take care of it.” “You are loved.” “God is in control.” “God loves you”. “God is good.” “Today I was so glad that God helped me…” “I will pray for you.”
Even mentioning things indirectly can bring a witnessing light to a friend. “Yesterday after church we…” “I was so tired last night I barely could keep my eyes open during my prayers.” “I wonder what God wants me to do…” “I read something interesting in the bible…”
As you practice, you will become freer. You may be more in tune with opportunities to stand up for Christ, help a heal a hurting soul, bring a new aspect of life to a someone or encourage fellow Christian. Let your light shine!
Examining the day in God’s Light
After the day is done look at your day with God. This prayer is often called “the Examen” made popular by St. Ignatius of Loyola. You are examining your day to see God and examining your soul to see how you can turn to Him more. The basics of this prayer time are: See the many moments of grace in your day, tell God your feelings about things from today, ask for forgiveness for your sins, request help for tomorrow.
Examining your day should be easy and peaceful- normally, it could take about 3 minutes right before bed but occasionally you may want it to go for much longer. It could be done while you brush your teeth at night or right when your head hits your pillow. If you are too sleepy then, try it while you clean up the dinner dishes or quietly on the couch just after. For more direction, go to www.loyolapress.com and search for “examen”. Or https://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/the-examen