We are all different in our personality, the way we are wired, and the way we communicate. We uniquely connect with God according to our gifts, our personality, our calling, and who God made us to be. In this episode of Calibrate Life, we encourage spiritual leaders to follow their own unique path in how they best connect with God, and we provide some questions to consider in coaching and mentoring those we love and lead on their unique spiritual journey.

For our friends who would rather read than listen, we’ve included a detailed and time-stamped set of episode notes for those who would like to continue reading.

Connecting at the Next Level: Uniquely Calibrating Your Spiritual Life 

Everyone is different in the ways and methods they use to connect with God in their personal spiritual practices through prayer, devotion, and quiet time. Just as we have a unique ways and methods for staying physically calibrated and fit through our workout routines, so we have unique ways of calibrating our spiritual lives that are unique and personal to us and to our relationship with God. [0:53]

I would like to have found my stride in personal spirituality earlier in my life, and I think some of the things I was taught during the early stages of my discipleship processes may have been a hinderance to me finding the fullness of joyful spiritual connection.

We are Christ-followers and we see connection with God fundamentally done through a relationship with Christ, but within that context there are a lot of different ways that we practice our personal devotion.  [2:00]

My life was inadvertently affected one day when I saw a Facebook post on an old friend’s wall. LeRoy Bartel, who I met when he was the discipleship director for our national network and later a leader at Southwestern University. He mentioned “coffee with the Lord.” His practice was getting a cup of coffee and sitting down to read and pray and he called that time “coffee with the Lord.” Something resonated within me. It sounded so fresh and relational. It sounded so free and appealing. It didn’t sound like the drudgery I sometimes felt in dragging myself out of bed and pressing into my spiritual practice. [2:20]

When I began to approach my prayer time with this new-found focus on relationship, I began to lift to an entirely new level, a very good level, in my spirituality.

I found a new pace in my spiritual life and my connection with the Father. Pace is important for the long-range aspects of our lives. There are seasons for pressing into new and deeper levels, but there are also seasons of a sustained pace that simply brings strength, sustenance, and lift to our spiritual lives. [3:50]

The pace is different for each of us.

Some Lessons We Learned About Our Prayer Lives While Pressing Through the Tough Stuff [4:10]

During the difficult legs of our journey we learned God was far more gracious and creative than we thought him to be. God pursues us in our difficulty and he understands the difficulty and seasons of our lives.

  • When our journey gets so hard that we just cannot pray or pursue quiet time, God pursues us and keeps reaching for us. The forms we embrace and the patterns we follow do not dictate whether or not God is with us or not, He stays with us during and through our difficulties. [5:20]
  • God can communicate with us even when we are unable to sustain a formal prayer routine. Sometimes we go through things in life that build barriers to those routines and God does not forsake us or turn a deaf ear to us during those times. [6:30]
  • I am worthy. When I feel God may not be accessible to me because I am not worthy, he reminds me of His love and acceptance of me and that I do have access to his heart. [7:31]

Our prayer and spiritual connection life is NOT a constant quest for worthiness. That is a futile pursuit. It is about embracing our position and pursuing a relationship. 

Experiencing the Joy of Spiritual Calibration and Relationship with the Father [8:19]

“Experiencing the joy of living, leading, and loving” isn’t a writing or podcasting theme for us, this is the theme of our lives. Life is and was meant to be full of joy.

I’ve always taken myself too seriously, especially when I was younger. Relaxing and experiencing the joy of relationship with the Father has been a life changer for me. I’ve come to realize in very real ways that God loves me, he is for me, he is not setting up barriers against me but he is tearing down the barriers between us. [8:51]

Such a realization had confirmed and solidified my relationship with the Father and it positions me to truly enjoy my time with the Father every day.  I look forward to it.

Sometimes we approach God as though we are approaching a formidable and angry God on a dark mountain. And sometimes that is how we should approach, but our everyday normal experience should be that of doing life with our God. [9:56]

There are formulas and templates for prayer, they are good and they help us stay focused and disciplined, but relationship always trumps formulas and templates. God is not a formula, nor are his ways in my lives reduced to a formula. I am unique and God interacts with me in very unique ways, in ways important to my growth and health. [10:15]

[shareable]Relationships always trump formulas and templates.[/shareable]

[callout]I am resistant to those who teach prayer in such a way as to not leave room for the unique work God is doing in us during a unique season of life.[/callout]

We have security in our relationship with God. [11:10]

In a relationship, sometimes nothing needs said. When we have sin issues those need dealt with so we can experience the joy of the relationship, but sitting in the Presence of God does not always require words.

The bible talks about praying in the spirit and praying with our understanding. We take our feelings and perceptions and put them into words because it increases our understanding. At other times God gives us perceptions beyond words that we understand conceptually. [11:50]

[callout]The bible talks about praying in the spirit and praying with our understanding. We take our feelings and perceptions and put them into words because it increases our understanding. At other times God gives us perceptions beyond words that we understand conceptually. [11:50] [/callout]

Our Spiritual Calibration is about How We Connect with God [13:50]

There is not a standardized quiet time. We do not all connect with God in the same way, nor should we be expected to.

It cannot be mechanized or reduced to a formula. Yes, Jesus did address elements of prayer with the Lord’s Prayer, “When you pray…”, “Teach us to pray…”. I think it is very important to consider the elements of the Lord’s Prayer and understand that it introduces very important elements of prayer: Adoration, acknowledgement, petition, forgiveness, protection, thanksgiving.

Look, I can give you some formulas as templates… and we WILL give you templates in future episodes, but this episode is about challenging you to find your path in the way you best connect with God.

This is to help you be consistent and effective in your personal spiritual calibration. [15:00]

Here’s why I’m passionate about this: I have found my deepest connection with God in my own way. I feel pushback and resistance when someone intimates the way they connect with God is the way everyone should connect. [15:30]

This is about connection with God. This is about relationship.

I am not formulaic with any other relationship in my life. Formulaic is where I start, but when relationship emerges it is not formulaic.

When I first meet someone I do have a path I follow to break the ice and explore the relationship, but once the relationship is established it finds its unique path and place. [16:20]

Here are two books we mention in this episode:

Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas [17:00]

Secrets of the Secret Place by Bob Sorge [18:13]

On the grief journey I did not pray for about a month. I did not journal, I did not have a “quiet time”. I didn’t want to be quiet because it was too painful. I couldn’t. Yet, I felt very close to God. God was communicating with me. He was helping me. He was forging a new level of relationship with me. He was just there. I could feel him. I could hear him. He was just there.

When I finally faced the “quiet time” I began to write and I haven’t stopped. God speaks to me through my writing. He speaks when I listen and I write it down.

I’ve been through seasons of life and seasons of connection with God. You will go through seasons where you are going through a transition or a transformation. You may experience permanent changes in the way you worship, pray, and practice spirituality.

We tend to a one-size-fits-all spirituality. [19:14]

Here are a few seasons I’ve identified in my own life: (This is not a progression, necessarily, especially the last 5.) [19:15]

  • Haphazard. Not much discipline, not much prayer, not much focus — Praying when I needed something.
  • Need Driven. Praying for an anointing for ministry. I knew I would lack effectiveness without anointing so I sought God to be in me for effectiveness.
  • Reading the Word. Just reading the Word and connecting with God through His Word without much “prayer”.
  • Ritual and Routine. Establishing a ritual and routine. Praying through the Lord’s Prayer while pacing. Praying through the elements or the points. Out loud making sure I was forceful and that God heard me.
  • Fervent Spirituality. Getting on my knees and burying my head in a pillow. These were powerful times of revelation and transformation.
  • Pacing. Listening and writing down what I heard.
  • Relational. Coffee with the Lord.

Corporate spirituality is important. What we do together is important. Maturity is bending, stepping into someone else’s comfort zone sometimes, and finding engagement with God in a variety of ways, corporately. The answer is not always starting a new church so we can worship in the way we prefer, but uniting as the Body of Christ and embracing the unique gifts and personalities placed in the church for mutual edification. [19:54]

Sometimes we need to embrace new ways of connecting with God. In community we can learn new ways. We are better together. The things we learn corporately, that are modeled, often find their way into our private spirituality. We learn from each other. [20:35]

How Do We Calibrate Our Spirituality as it Relates to Connecting with God? [21:00]

First of all, I am a Christ-Follower and that is the only path I recognize for connecting with God, so that’s the only thing we are addressing. The only thing we can offer is who we are, and that is just who we are. So, everything we are talking about is in that framework or context.

I’ve shared my personal routine many times, and I am somewhat hesitant to do so simply because I know not everyone will find meaning and fulfillment using the same routines that I do. That is the point of this podcast, but I will share my routines as an example, it does work for me. I wake up around 5am. I do a few things in my morning routine and I get a cup of coffee and a protein bar, I go to my study and sit in my Dad’s leather chair that reclines, I date my journal, and I listen. I pray a lot, I listen even more, and I write a lot.

Sometimes words get whispered, sometimes I pray in low tones, sometimes I pray in the spirit as I am moved. I love the quiet of the morning. I love being able to listen, hear, and think.

Sometimes I pray when I run (sometimes I listen to podcasts when I run).

How do you connect with God? How do you do your private spirituality? [22:27]

Here are a number of ways people connect uniquely with God during their prayer, listening, and devotional times.

  • Connecting outdoors while running, walking, hiking.
  • Connecting with God while connecting with others in spiritual and/or transformational conversation.
  • Connecting through an abiding presence experienced moment by moment (Pray without ceasing).
  • Connecting through reading the Word of God.
  • Connecting through the quality devotional reading.  Donna has used this devotional regularly for many years: My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers.
  • Connecting through writing.
  • Connecting through music. Music has a special place in worship because of the doors it opens emotionally, but some connect with it more than others.

There are many other ways people experience the Presence of God in their lives. Ways that I’ve not experienced because they are not aligned with the way God made me.

[callout]Consider additional ways not listed that you do or might connect.[/callout]

What About Parameters and Consistent that Should Always be Present in Our Devotional Practice? [27:30]

  • There must be times of focus. While we connect with God on our morning commute, I do think we have to have regular time where we pull away and can put our full focus on connecting. [28:23]
  • For consistency, there should be a time and place. Intentionality is important. We do have seasons where we lack consistency, but for the long-term transformational journey, we have to have intentionality. [29:12]
  • Prayer is two-way and it is revelational. The communication should go both ways. [30:33]

We have to understand the seasons of our life. [31:49]

  • In the grief journey my connection with the Presence of God looked different. It changed.
  • In the growth and transition seasons of my life my connecting points with God looked different.
  • The way our relationship with God progresses.

Lifting Those we Love and Lead in Spiritual Calibration [32:04]

Life and Coaching Questions for Consideration:

  • How do you connect best with God?
  • When do you feel closest to God?
  • Do you have a specific time, place, and plan for connecting with God?
  • What worship means and methods are most meaningful to you in this season?
  • According to your personality type, what ways of connecting with God seem most congruent with how God made (wired) you?
  • As a leader, how are we sensitive to different styles, personalities, and seasons in the lives of those we are leading, coaching, and mentoring? (Remember, leadership is about leading people from where they are to where THEY need to go.)