The Presbyterian church on my block is closed. Two weeks ago they sold everything in the building, from pews and tables to hymnals and banners. It was my birthday so I bought something. I was the dork walking out of the sanctuary with this old prayer kneeler. Yes, I'm cool.
Other than being a geek, why would I want a prayer kneeler?
I want to build habits that embody my values. I believe prayer to be essential in my relationship with God. Yet I find myself struggling to do it. So a prayer kneeler gives me a physical marker to help develop a significant habit.
It's too easy to form bad habits. We find ourselves in patterns that don't reflect our values. Mobility and technology give us more options than any time in human history. But with endless choices, we easily default to unhealthy modes of operation. All too often we fall into negative routines without even thinking about it.
In essence, a bad habit is when we norm the negative. Consider the following areas in which poor habits are developed.
Eating. Fast food every day.
Sleeping. Five instead of eight hours.
Work. Checking work e-mail while eating dinner with your family.
TV Time. Six hours a day instead of one or two.
Communication. Always gossiping. Or avoiding honest conversation with a loved one.
Worship. Once every six weeks instead of most weeks.
At the end of the day, we need to be clear about the kind of people we are, and then set intentional patterns of action that reflect our identity. Here are some ways I have developed habits:
Scheduled Time. Scheduling something makes it happen. Draw a boundary around dedicated time.
Accountability. Someone else knows my commitment to a habit and holds me to it. They encourage and confront me.
Community. I do it with others. This is Christian discipleship, learned patterns of the Kingdom life by living it together.
Monuments. Physical markers serve to promote habits. Like my prayer kneeler helps with prayer. My new running shoes encourage me to run.
Grace. Habits shouldn't be unbearable burden. I live with the conviction that God gives margins. Room for grace. If perfection is my goal, fear is the outcome. I live under God's gracious rule, and he gives me the capacity to live the habits he would have for me. So I'm free to form habits, not enslaved by them.
The goal of a habit is not rigid observance. Disciplined patterns form me into the person God wants me to be. Paul wrote, "Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus" (I Tim. 1:13).
What are ways you have developed habits?