As children we are dependent upon our parents. As adults we desire independence. But when we are old we become dependent again. But no matter how dependent or independent we are on other people, we are always dependent upon God. He is our creator and sustainer of life, and nothing we have is of our own but has been given to us from God. We came into this world with nothing and we will leave it with nothing. If there is one universal truth of humanity, it is that we are utterly dependent creatures.
But like the original sin in the Garden of Eden, which was a desire to become independent of God. We struggle to humble ourselves before God and acknowledge our dependence upon him. With this in mind, the disciplines that specifically show our dependence upon the Lord are some of the most difficult to cultivate. Therefore, disciplines like prayer, fasting, silence, and solitude are directly opposed to our desire for independence.
The practice of these disciplines shows that a person truly understands what Jesus said in John 15, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” When you pray, you are acknowledging that you are weak but He is strong. John Piper wrote, “Prayer is God’s delight because it shows the reaches of our poverty and the riches of His grace.” Remember, the disciplines are not ends in themselves but a means to intimacy with God.
Like Sacred Reading, it is important to be consistent in prayer and to choose the right time and place. People often presume that prayer should only be spontaneous and unplanned as if you’re holier when you pray that way But prayer should be planned and thought out. Fasting is another means to intimacy with God. By abstaining from eating physical food, you are acknowledging that you are not dependent upon “bread alone” but upon the divine presence of God as you, instead, seek him in prayer.
One of the biggest hindrances to divine dependence, outside of our fleshly desire for independence, is the high volume of distractions that exist in our lives. For this reason, the disciplines of silence and solitude are unique habits that aid in intimacy with God. Most people hate to be alone for any length of time. And the only time we notice all the white noise around us is when it is gone. For many people, to be alone and in silence for any measure of time is nearly impossible. It is possible that this directly inhibits a person’s ability to hear the still small voice of God speaking into their souls.
It is a wonderful thing to see, however, that in the life of Christ he often had these moments where he would retreat away to a deserted place (silence), far from the crowds and even the disciples (solitude), for intentional times of fellowship with the Father (prayer and fasting). But how do you begin to cultivate this habit in your life? Below are some suggestions that will hopefully enhance how you practice the discipline of dependence:
- Choose a place where nothing will interrupt your thoughts, then decide how long you will pray for and stick to it.
- Leave your phone and other devices in another room. Distractions can come in many forms; isolate yourself from these subtle deterrents.
- For fasting, start small. Skip a meal and work your way up to longer fasting. Be sure to plan this out so that you don’t have some physical activity to do that day. If you have health issues, consult a doctor first.
- The ACTS acronym (adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication) is helpful when planning a time of prayer. Arrange your prayer topics under these categories.