In 2002, Allen Iverson (a famous basketball player for those wondering) famously said this after skipping a team practice: “We sitting in here -- I'm supposed to be the franchise player, and we in here talking about practice. I mean, listen: We talking about practice. Not a game. Not a game. Not a game. We talking about practice. Not a game. Not the game that I go out there and die for and play every game like it's my last. Not the game. We talking about practice, man."

These words shocked many in the sports world.  Shouldn’t your best player and team captain lead by example?  It seems Allen Iverson misunderstood what practice was all about.

Practice is important to the Christian life as well.  Our practice (or spiritual disciplines) gets us ready to play in the game.  When Jesus says things like, “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you,” we must recognize this is impossible on our own.  We need to practice (pray, read our Bibles, fast, worship, memorize His word, etc.) so that God will begin to change and strengthen us from the inside out. 

This is the point of practice.  Allen Iverson seemed to miss this.  Practice for him was not important.  He had practiced his whole life…he felt he didn’t need to be as dedicated because he didn’t see the connection between practice and continued improvement.

One thought to consider:  The goal of the spiritual disciplines is not to get good at them.  You don’t pray to get good at praying, and you don’t fast to get good at fasting.  You and I perform the spiritual disciplines because it’s the practice that God created to fill us up with his Spirit and help us to become more Holy.  When you practice anything (let’s use basketball because it’s all I know) the goal is to do drills that prepare you for your performance.

One drill I did a lot as a kid was “figure 8, around the waist.”  Google it if you’re curious.  You know how many times I did that in a game?  None.  Did it better prepare me for games?  Absolutely.  It indirectly prepared me for handling and controlling the ball.  All the drills that you practice indirectly prepare you for the game.

The same is true with the Spiritual Disciplines.  The more you do what you can do, the more God will use those moments to do what only he can do (by changing you from the inside out). 

The Spiritual Disciplines have no direct benefits for our lives.  Prayer (and the others) is only special because of what God does through it.  Not all praying (to other gods in other religions) has an impact on a person’s life.  Prayer is not good in and of itself…it is only good because it connects us with God.

The Pharisees of Jesus’ day would rather be good at the disciplines than close to God.  This is why Jesus calls them “Sons of Hell.” Legalism can happen when you have the wrong focus in your spiritual life.

So don’t focus on how well you fast, pray, read, etc.  Just allow God to use these moments to grow you spiritually.  Put yourself before Him, and get ready to be changed.

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