I think at some level, we are all familiar with the word ‘practice’. For some of us, this word conjures up images of afternoons spent in front of an old piano, labouring away at Row, Row, Row Your Boat, while your pals are out playing street hockey. Maybe it’s reminiscent of hours spent in front of the TV, mastering the levels of Mario Bro. 3, or the dungeons of Zelda. Others may relate it to the time spent with an artist's brush, and a pallet of paint, trying to make your mountain look big and pointy and jagged and majestic, and not like a grey-brown lump of uninspiring blandness. Regardless of how we applied ourselves, we all know that practicing a skill can be a painful, slow, frustrating, but also a fun, enjoyable, rewarding process.
For me, I think about practicing when I think about guitars, or music production. Recently, I’ve been thinking, and wondering if those same principles that I’m familiar with can be used in my daily efforts to grow as a Christian. The apostle Paul, relates living life as a Christian to living life as a high level athlete, in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27:
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
This makes me think that he viewed the daily disciplines of the Christian life as something to be worked at, trained and practiced. Paul also talks about the fact that what we achieve in this life, like a prize for winning a race, will not last nearly as long as we’d like. If we commit ourselves to training ourselves as Christians, we will be much better off. A lot more motivation to earn eternal rewards, than to know that all your efforts will be short lived.
So how would that look in real life? How do I take those concepts that I use to practice music, and use them to practice prayer, or reading the Bible, or any of the other myriad of tough Christian disciplines? Some aspects are easy to relate, like memorization.
Psalm 119:11 “ have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” And the slow, deliberate study involved.
Joshua 1: “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”
Even the habit of practicing at a specific time of day can be related to spiritual pursuits.
Daniel 6:10 “When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.”
One of the great things about this line of thinking is the fact that as a musician, or artist, or linguist progresses in their craft, their skills become developed, and using them becomes much easier. They become defined by those skills, and the initial struggle to become proficient lessens. One can only hope that this will be the case with the pursuit of Christianity, and really, there’s only one way to find out!