Wednesday Word: Acts of Faith
As we get strength, but one extended act of faith (so to call it) influences us all through the day, and our whole day is but one act of obedience also. – from a sermon entitled, “The Spiritual Mind,” John Henry Newman
In preaching about how we might attain a deeper spirituality, or how we might draw closer to God, Newman made the above statement. As I thought about it, I was reminded of St. Paul when he referenced his faith as if he were running a race (2 Tim. 4:7). It might be appropriate here to compare our lives of faith and spirituality to that of a physical endeavor – swimming, running, walking, cycling, climbing, etc., or maybe to that of playing an instrument.
Very few of us, if any, have the ability to fall out of bed on a Saturday morning and run a marathon. Likewise none of us have the ability to jump in a pool and swim 100 meters, or decide to summit Mt. Everest. These things take training. We need to train our bodies to swim or run or whatever a little at a time. Our muscles need to be strengthened and our lung capacity needs to develop. We need to get to a place where we willingly put one foot in front of the other when others tell us to sit down and relax.
Our faith and spirituality can benefit from the same process. We don't suddenly decide to spend an hour each day on our knees in prayer. Instead, we begin with something we can accomplish. We train. Maybe we begin with five minutes in silent prayer at the beginning of the day. Maybe we spend a few minutes of our lunch hour in prayer. Maybe we begin by closing out our day praying Compline (p. 127 of the BCP if you were wondering). As we develop that, we “get strength” so that those small, self-contained periods of prayer or acts of faith develop to become one extended act of faith.
And then, when we have seen that develop over time, we hopefully come to place where prayer and acts of faith are no longer reserved for specific times and places, but they infuse our whole day so that each day becomes an act of obedience to God; which then, slowly but surely, molds our whole life into a life of obedience, faith, and prayer.
Just as we practice to swim farther, run longer, climb higher, just as we practice to sing clearer and play more smoothly, we should also practice our faith so that it isn't relegated to convenient times or places, but so that it may so infuse our daily lives in a way that draws us more closely to the Lord.