In “Living Prayer” Robert Benson tells about visiting the Kentucky Abbey, Gethsemani. He learns there that its monks aren’t like him. What makes them different is what they do when the bell rings.

The bell rings at specific times during the day with metronomic monotony. It does this every day of the year. When the bell rings, the monks stop whatever their doing and do something else.

When the bell rings, they pray.

All year long, every day, every time the bell rings—the monks pray.

You call this disciplined living.

Training for Disciplined Living

The Apostle Paul tells us to imitate the monks. Not by moving to a monastery. By disciplined living. He says it’s the only way we can become like Jesus.

Here’s how he puts it: “Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly.For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:6-8).

Godliness is God-likeness. What’s God like? Jesus. When God looks at him he looks in a mirror. Our Lord says, “The One who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). We become God-like as we become Jesus-like in character and conduct.

If we want to be Jesus-like we must train ourselves. Training’s a sweat glistening synonym for discipline. To train ourselves is to discipline ourselves.

Discipline is about routine. It’s about establishing a pattern. A way of doing something the same way every time you do it. Just about everything we do from brushing our teeth to how we drive to work to what we do after work lives and moves and has its being is routine. Life without routine would be as awkward and unmanageable as trying to fly a kite in a hurricane.

Routine is about repetition. Nothing’s a routine until it becomes the second cousin to instinct called habit. And nothing becomes a habit / routine until it’s been done repeatedly. Repetition is the hammer fixing firmly the nail of routine into the wall of our living.

Repetition is about choices. Repetition comes by choosing to do the same thing again and again, over and over, time after time. When you feel like and when you don’t. When it’s easy and when it isn’t. When choice trumps feeling this way you demonstrate one of the marks of adult Christian living. When this happens you’ve taken a giant step toward becoming like Jesus.

Choices are about priorities. Our choices are governed by our priorities the way teenagers are governed by their impulses. Our priorities are revealed in our choices the way watching which of two men a dog follows reveals its owner.

This discipline-routine-repetition-choice-priority is the anatomy of godliness according to Paul. If we follow it again and again, asking the Holy Spirit to make it beneficial, we’ll find him helping us become God-like by becoming Jesus-like.

Do You Have a Bell?

The man who wrote the New Testament book of James was nicknamed “camel knees.” He’d spent so much time in prayer that his knees were gnarled like a camel’s. If we’re going to be Jesus-like we must become Psalm One people with camel knees. We must discipline ourselves to spend time with God’s word and in prayer. Without disciplining ourselves to make these routines—done day in and day out no matter how we feel—our bible reading and praying will be as irregular as a college student’s calls home.

We need a bell. Meaning, we need a method to discipline ourselves to establish the routine of bible reading and praying in the same place . . . repeatedly, day in and day out, no matter how we feel or what’s going on in our lives. . . by choosing to do these things . . . because they’re priorities for us . . . because we want to be like Jesus . . . and can’t be without them.

When the bell rings the monks pray. That’s because they understand there’s no Christ-likeness without discipline. They have a method for daily prayer and Bible reading.

Do we?

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