by Brian Delamont, Director of Global Spiritual Development
How do a 5 Year Strategic Plan, habit formation, and 40 Days of Prayer link together? Strategic Plans are birthed from high level thinking, extensive dialogue and point to actionable objectives. Habit formation is what we’ve all long since forgotten about, when we look back to New Year’s resolutions in a pandemic-bound world. And 40 Days of Prayer, well that could sound like a nice add-on to my otherwise busy enough day.
Imagine you draw 3 circles on your whiteboard. The first circle is labelled “Strategy”, the second “Habit”, and the third “Prayer.” Now imagine what could happen if these circles moved towards one another, perhaps even overlapped completely. What do you believe the result could be?
I believe the result could be powerful spiritual development. This past year, as we built and approved our 5 Year Strategic Plan, prayer was a foundational element of the planning process. You would expect that from a mission, wouldn’t you? Yet prayer is also a strategic outcome for the 5 year plan! In fact, we have determined to begin each year of the strategic plan with 40 Days of Prayer together. Why? Of course, there are the tremendous biblical and theological grounds for prayer. But how do those grounds change us? Through applying them…habit.
We will regularly do the things which mean the most to us. Our habits reveal our hearts; what we truly, functionally, love.
James K.A. Smith in his book, You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit says this, “We learn to love, then, not primarily by acquiring information about what we should love but rather through practices that form the habits of how we love… We willingly embrace repetition as a good in all kinds of other sectors of our life – to hone our golf swing, our piano prowess, and our mathematical abilities, for example. If the sovereign Lord has created us as creatures of habit, why should we think repetition is inimical to our spiritual growth?” 1
Habits, both good and bad, are formed by repetition. This is one of the strengths supporting 40 Days of Prayer 2021. We receive 40 opportunities to strengthen or create a habit of prayer, scripture reading and reflection. Neuroscience tells us that habit forms deep pathways in our brains. So, if we want to change our behaviour, to be transformed; then we need to engage in a behaviour or thought often enough to build different neuropathways. This is how God has created us. 40 Days of Prayer 2021 gives each one of us the opportunity to strengthen or form a new habit of prayer, Scripture engagement and reflection.
As TeachBeyond, we want to foster communities of prayer. 40 Days of Prayer 2021 is intended to provide you with a guide to follow in order to create, or heighten, your engagement with Father, Son and Spirit. Each weekday focuses on one element of the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), and each Saturday will give you prompts for reflection and a Psalm of praise.
If you didn’t join in at the beginning of the 40 Days of prayer, that’s no reason not to begin now. You’ll do even better if you invite a friend or family member to join you at the same time. Habits thrive in supportive environments! 40 Days of Prayer 2021 is translated into English, Portuguese, Spanish, German and French. You can find it here: https://global.teachbeyond.org/40days/
And now some bonus content! Do you know that every week TeachBeyond produces a podcast which is so intentionally designed to be Transformed and Transformational that we’ve named it that? You’ll strengthen your prayer life and your engagement with God’s work of transformation if you subscribe, listen and then invite others to grow with you. Every week there’s great content and once a month there is a spiritual development focus. https://teachbeyond.org/transformed-and-transformational-podcast/
So, to draw your attention back to the circles on the whiteboard of Strategy, Habit and Prayer, how would you draw these circles? Are they converging? Would you like to see an even more powerful outcome? Take an action step and join us for 40 days.
1 James K. A. Smith, You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2016), 21 and 80