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3 steps to abiding in Christ  

In a pastoral letter from May 1997 Richard Foster suggested the following three steps  to  help with the practice of abiding:

Do you remember Jesus' astonishing words, "If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you" (John 15:7)? "Abide in me . . . my words abide in you." This "abiding" is everything. In John 15 Jesus uses the word "abide" eleven times in ten verses. Nothing is more fundamental, more central, more pivotal than abiding in Jesus and allowing his words to abide in us. But how do we do this? Here are three simple beginning steps.

1. Begin with a simple, straightforward reading of the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. If you have a red letter Bible, you may want to start by soaking in those words the Gospel writers give us as coming from Jesus himself. Don't worry about redaction criticism or those few passages that are confusing to you. Initially, I suggest you not even worry too much about historical and contextual considerations. Later these matters can enhance your understanding considerably, but the first need is simply to lean into these wonderful words of life. Let them form you, shape you, challenge you, comfort you. As you allow the words to percolate in your consciousness, you will memorize many passages without ever trying to memorize them. Let the phrases seep below the conscious level of your mind until you dream about them. Don't rush this process, thinking that you already know Jesus' words. The key is not "knowing" the words of Jesus but allowing them to abide in you. If you have never done this before, I suggest you stay with this step for six months or so, say until Christmas.

2. As you are soaking—abiding—in Jesus' words, you can begin praying the Scripture. "Festooning" is what C. S. Lewis called it. Take, for instance, the words, "Your kingdom come" and pray that reality into your place of work, your home, your family relationships, your dreams for the future. You do this not primarily by saying the words "Your kingdom come" but by taking up specific individuals and situations and attitudes and praying the kingdom life into them. Again, take Jesus' words, "pray for those who persecute you" and allow them to saturate your heart, your mind, your feelings. In time you will find yourself spontaneously praying for those who persecute you—not because you are supposed to pray that way but out of deeply ingrained habit. And much more.

3. As this prayer experience becomes natural (that is, it becomes more and more a part of who you are rather than what you do), I suggest you extend your time a little through a listening silence. Remember, Jesus Christ is active among his people today. He has not contracted laryngitis. His voice is not hard to hear. His vocabulary is not difficult to understand. He will speak to you and teach you and guide you as you grow in attentiveness to his living Presence. His teaching will never be contrary to what you have already been experiencing by having his written words abide in you. In fact, it will have the same tone, the same quality, the same weight. For example, it is in the nature of Jesus to draw and encourage rather than to push and condemn. If you have any questions about the guidance you are receiving, you can bring it to mature sisters and brothers in the faith for corporate discernment. In fact, this work is always done best in the context of a loving fellowship of other disciples of Jesus.

David Wanstall, 29/01/2008