WHAT IS A RULE OF LIFE?
When you get up in the morning, you likely have a routine to get your body ready for the day. You brush your teeth, wash your face, take a shower, comb your hair, eat breakfast, etc. You may not do all of this the same way and at the same time others do it; but it is done.
Without taking care of your body, you would soon fall apart. Without exercise your muscles atrophy, without food your body starves, without washing your body smells abominable. You learn this care when you are young, and it becomes a habit. It is not something you think about. It is something you just do.
A spiritual rule of life has the same purpose; but most of us did not have spiritual habits drummed into us when we were children. Brushing your teeth and washing your face and hands were one thing; saying your prayers and going to church were another. Reading the Bible was something someone else did to you in Sunday School.
A Rule of Life is a set of habits I adopt to take care of my spiritual relationship to myself and to God. That care in turn, affects my relationship to everyone else I encounter in life. If I choose to nurture my spirit with the same concern I give my body, I must find and adopt a rule for regular care and nurture of the spirit.
WHAT DOES A RULE ENTAIL?
When you set out to take care of the body, you make sure that you keep it clean and groomed, you feed it right, and you exercise. You protect it from external threats to your health as far as you can, and you see that it gets proper treatment when it is diseased in some way.
The same holds true with the spirit. We do not always think and do the things that we would like to think and do. Paul makes the point that he (and most of us identify with him) intends with his mind to serve God, but there is something else that at work in his members. The good he would do, he does not; the evil he would not do, seems always at hand.
Paul continues, "There is now therfore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." God has prepared a way for us to be made clean. I must make the choice of leaving my spirit with my life's dirt and grime smeared over it, or turn to God and ask Him to remove it.
That entails some form of confession, offering my dirt and grime to Abba so He might clean it up. It is much like I do when I turn the shower on the external dirt and grime to remove it from the skin. I give particular attention to the obvious spots, but I wash me all over. In confession I give particular attention to the obvious sins, but I ask God to cleanse my whole interior.
I eat good food if I want to stay healthy. There are times when I eat an overabundance of dessert, but I make sure that my body gets fed a balanced diet, and at times may add a vitamin or two to supplement the food.
For my spirit's health, I make sure that I feed it healthy spiritual food. I read the Scriptures and other spiritual books or writings, and I worship regularly at Communion. The church established the canon of Scripture to be the measure of all other writing. If I am going to relate to the God who revealed Himself in Jesus Christ, I will use Scripture to evaluate the other things that I read, which may throw new light on Scripture for me.
I may read a lot of other things that are fun to read, but I must see that my daily intake has sufficient spiritual nutrition to assure a healthy spirit within me. Just as I cannot live on dessert, I cannot live on frothy literature or conversation.
I must also exercise my spirit, if I want it to be healthy. Just as the body will atrophy without exercise, so will the spirit without exercise. Just as breathing is essential to the working of the body, prayer is essential to the working of the spirit.
Prayerobic exercise includes the breathing and the work of receiving and giving. In an age wherein we hear much about giving to others, we must also be aware of the necessity that we first receive. We cannot give away anything we don't have anymore than we can come back some some place we haven't been. Spiritual exercise entails our receiving from God and giving to those to whom we are directed.
First, we receive from Jesus. He must wash our feet if we are going to have a part in Him. We give as stewards of His things, as He directs, to others. We are not given so we can keep it all to ourselves. It is said IMpression without EXpression yields DEpression.
We normally call prayerobics, ministry. In reality it is our habitual exercising of the spirit through prayer and work, as the body uses breathing and physical exercise. It involves both the element of prayer and the element of work.
Prayer also keeps us in touch with Abba, who is directing the program. When we seek to walk with Him, He keeps us clean, feeds us good nourishment, and uses us in the ministries for which He created us. So we can see the elements of a rule in the way we normally take care of our bodies.
The rule must include prayer, study and fellowship, and some sort of stewardship of what we have been given by God. What we call ministry is simply the stewardship of God's gifts as we use them at His direction.
THE RULE OF THE ORDER
The Order of St. Luke has developed a Rule of Life for its members that includes the above elements for those who do not have a rule or whose rule might not be complete. In my own life, I had a rule, but I found I had to fill in the gaps with some of the elements of the Rule of the Order
1. I will PRAY daily for this work (the ministry of healing), remembering to use the Lord's Prayer with the special intention that God's will may be done in me and in all mankind. I will use the special prayer for St. Luke's Day at frequent intervals.
Jesus taught us to pray for God's Kingdom to come on earth as in heaven. We may use that prayer with special intent that the Kingdom come in some particular person or some particular situation. It is, in fact, a healing prayer when used that way. You simply put the name of the person or the situation in those places where you ask God to act.
All prayer for healing is for God's will to be done in bringing His wholeness into our disease. Our prayer is not to change God's mind; it is to open the way for His will to be done. The prayer for St. Luke's Day is for God to continue His healing work in the church to His glory.
2. I will CULTIVATE a personal prayer life and seek a closer walk with Jesus Christ, our Savior and Healer.
Prayer is a dialog with God. He has spoken the first Word. That Word was made flesh and we are to respond to Him. It is in conversation that we come to know one another. It is in prayer as dialog that we come to know God.
We reveal ourselves in what we say; we come to know others in what we hear them say. Prayer must include listening to God as well as talking to Him. You cannot continue to breathe out unless you also breathe in. In exercise we breath out waste from the body's metabolism; in prayer we breathe out our disease. In exercise we breathe in oxygen for our body's health; in prayer we breathe in the Spirit of God for our total well being.
3. I will PRAY for the whole Body of Christ for the purpose of supporting the Scriptural intent that the whole Body "upbuild itself in love." (Eph 4:16)
In my conversation with God, I will recognize that He has not called me in isolation, but together with ALL of His children whom He has called to be His family. It is easy to find fault in others; it is essential to pray for our union with God and with one another, that the world might see us as a single Body whose bond of love is our witness to the presence of God's Kingdom.
4. I will READ from the New Testament daily.
There is a difference between the Old and the New Testaments as there is difference between Law and Gospel. We read the Old as Law and Prophecy of the New in which God has made a new covenant with us. The Old Testament tells us of a covenant that was impossible for us to keep. The New tells us of a covenant which God enables us to keep by His healing love that He reveals in His Son, Jesus Christ. It is this healing love that we need to feed into our soul and spirit. (This rule does not mean that we neglect to read the Old Testament.)
5. I will RECEIVE Holy Communion regularly.
All traditions do not celebrate Holy Communion on the same schedule; but they do all celebrate on a regular basis. Regular may mean one thing to one person and another thing to someone else. It does mean that we will receive Holy Communion in accord with our tradition's regular celebration.
We are to find in our communion, a union with God in Christ and with one another (discerning the Body) so that we might find it a source of health for ourselves and for the Body of Christ.
6. I will SEEK such health of body, soul and spirit as will make me capable of maximum vocation.
The purpose of my rule is to get healthy and stay healthy. Just as I would seek medical treatment for an illness, I will seek prayer for the healing of any disease. Since I am seeking to become whole and not just functional, I will seek prayer for little things as well as serious ones. I can exercise better as a totally whole person than as one with physical or spiritual aches and pains.
7. I will CULTIVATE the gifts God has given me for the work of healing by study, active service, and by giving heed to the revelation God gives in particular circumstances.
This rule asks us to practice using the gifts we have been given. It is more than learning and following some technique or method. It means learning to work WITH God rather than FOR God, to become a participant rather than a spectator. We learn to listen to God as well as to the ones to whom we are to minister.
The most important things in our lives we learn from doing. We learn to talk by talking, to walk by walking, to love by loving. We learn to minister by ministering. The first part of ministering is learning to listen. We do that by listening, and then offering to pray for and with the one we perceive as God's beloved. We do this as God leads.
8. I will SEEK continued growth as an instrument our Lord can use for the healing of others.
We are not yet perfected. I will continue to look for the next lesson from God. I will acknowledge that I still do not know everything. I will be pleased with what I have received from God, but I will not be satisfied to stop where I am at this moment in my life. We see now in a glass, darkly; but we seek to see Him face to face.
9. I will SHARE this healing gospel with others by personal witness, by praying with others, by supporting SHARING MAGAZINE, by circulating healing literature, and by contributing according to my ability.
I will be a good steward of what God has committed to me. I will not bury my talent in a napkin. I will invest it as I am led by God. This rule pertains to our putting all of the rest of the rules into action in our lives. It is our response to God's question, "What are you doing with My things?"
10. I will ATTEMPT all of this so far as I am able with the help of God.
The last statement of our rule makes clear that we do not do God's work in our strength. We are to exercise the authority of Jesus in the power of Holy Spirit. Our rule is to keep us mindful that we do not work FOR God so much as work WITH God. We ask, and expect to receive His grace to do with Him that we cannot do by ourselves.
WHERE DO I BEGIN?
If I have never tried to follow a rule, it is difficult to just jump in and go. The Rule of the Order suggests the elements that are necessary for a rule. It must be adapted to your way of life if it is to help you grow.
You should select a time for doing the elements of your rule just as you pick a time to eat, a time to go to bed or a time to get up in the morning. A particular time helps you develop the habit of keeping the rule. It may be morning noon or night, as long as it can become a habit.
You should select a regular place, particularly for your prayerobics. A place where prayer is offered regularly, soon has a feeling of warmth that comes from the presence of God where you meet Him. Prayer becomes easier and more comfortable as you take time in silence to listen to God.
Don't try to do it all at once. The Lord's Prayer is a good place to begin. Read a bit of the New Testament, perhaps one of the healing stories from the Gospels. Talk to God about one of the people you know who needs ministry and try to work with that one initially.
As you become accustomed to meeting God daily, you will add to your rule as God leads. It will be easier as it becomes a new habit. As your spirit grows, so will its desire to spend this time with Abba.
If you try to do too much initially, there is a temptation to give up. If you make it too easy, it does not exercise your spirit sufficiently for growth. A rule should perhaps be just out of reach. Enough to make you stretch your spirit, yet close enough that you do not despair of developing the habit.
The only way to begin is to decide what you will to do, and start out. There will be adjustments, but there will also be a dimension of stability to your life and growth that you will find in no other way.
Most people find it helpful to have a spiritual director or soul friend with whom they can talk about their rule and what they might do to change it as they grow. There is often a need to talk about the weaknesses that beset us, and how to overcome them. Ask the Lord if He would have you use a spiritual director or soul friend. If He says, "Yes," ask Him to whom you should go to seek that support.
A spiritual rule is not always an easy thing to acquire and use, but we would not want to quit brushing our teeth or bathing because it was difficult. We pursue the goal because it is very important to our health.
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