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Spiritual Discipline

OBJECTIVE

For young people to realize that just as athletes train for competition, we train ourselves in the spiritual life.

PREPARING FOR THE SESSION

Familiarize yourself with the different aspects of spiritual discipline that will be covered in this session so that you can guide the young people in their discussion.

MATERIALS NEEDED

  • Crepe Paper
  • A Prize for the team that wins
  • Butcher Paper (one large sheet per group)
  • Bibles with concordances (one per person)
  • Markers
  • Pens
  • Copies of the Reflection sheet (one per person)
  • Copies of the prayer (one per person)

OPENING PRAYER (READ TOGETHER)

My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and give praise.
Awake, my glory!
Awake, lute and harp!
I will awaken the dawn.

I will praise You, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing to You among the nations. For Your mercy reaches unto the heavens,
And Your truth unto the clouds.

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
Let Your glory be above all the earth.
Psalm 57:7-11

OPENING ACTIVITY

Form teams of 4-6 people. Have everyone link arms in an inside out circle (facing out). Have a starting line where all the team will line up. Tell them they will be running a race as a team and the first team to finish wins a prize. Set up a race course that is not straight and that is quite long. Tell the teams they may not unlink their arms during the race. Use the crepe paper as the finish line.

Award the prize to the winning team at the end of the meeting.

DISCUSS

  • What was hard about running the race?
  • What helped your team?
  • Is there anything you could have done to make this race easier?

READ 1 CORINTHIANS 9:24-27

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.

DISCUSS

(accept all answers and reflect back)

  • What type of race is being run here?
    (a spiritual race)
  • What is needed to win the race? 
    (discipline)
  • What is the prize?
    (eternal life)

STATE

(paraphrase in your own words)

Sometimes we underestimate the importance of our spiritual training. We put our spiritual training guide in a box that we take out on Sunday morning and then tuck nicely away after church that same day. We think that going to church on Sunday and just being a good person is enough to be an Athlete for Christ.

Let's think about it like this: what would happen if a track runner only trained one day of the week? The day of the big race comes and he is off. He starts off strong, neck and neck with the other runners, but quickly, that changes. He begins to fall behind. He feels short of breath and still has a way to go to finish. He can see the other runners passing him as he quickly falls behind. He tries to speed up to catch them but instead his legs give out and he falls to the ground. There he sits in pain watching all of the other runners cross the finish line. And so it is with our spiritual life. If we are just training one day a week, it is very difficult for us to have the endurance to finish the race. It is the same with our spiritual life.

What are things we can do to help us train spiritually?

ACTIVITY

Have young people get back into their earlier groups. Give each group one of the topics below with the quote and a bible with a Concordance (If you don't have enough groups give them 2 topics each). Have them read their quotes as a group and talk about what their topic means for the first 5 minutes. Then show them how to use the Concordance and give them 10 minutes to find quotes that relate to their topic and discuss them as a small group. Finally, have them create a mural that represents their topics on the butcher paper (15 minutes). Have each group report about their topic to the whole group.

Prayer - "Prayer refreshes and enlivens the soul, as outer air refreshes the body. When we pray we feel stronger and fresher, as we feel physically and spiritually stronger and fresher when we walk in the fresh air." St. John Kronstadt 
Confession - "Enter into the Church and wash away your sins. For here there is a hospital and not a court of law. Do not be ashamed again to enter the Church; be ashamed when you sin, but not when you repent." St. John Chrysostom 
Almsgiving - "It is the poor man who holds out his hand, but it is God Himself who receives whatever you give to the poor." St. John Chrysostom
Worship - "We are commanded to worship, not on special days, but continuously - all our life through, and in all possible ways." St. Clement of Alexandria 
Fasting - "Fasting in respect of food is of no benefit to those who fail to fast with all their senses; for whosoever is successfully waging his battle must be temperate in all things." St. Isidore of Pelusium 
Spiritual Reading - "Understand the word of Holy Scripture by putting them into practice, and do not fill yourself with conceit by expiating on theoretical ideas." St. Mark the Ascetic

STATE

(paraphrase in your own words)

So where do we start? As any athlete would tell you, training begins with a good coach. A coach helps you progress through your training safely and wisely. When we start training for something, we are often over excited and try to do too much. We don't yet have the endurance to continue so we stop. Our coach knows the shape we are in and can help start our training with the proper focus. Where can an Athlete for Christ get a coach? Check with your priest! He will make an excellent guide for you as you train.

WRAP UP

(paraphrase in your own words)

To be an athlete takes discipline. You must constantly be working toward your goal. It involves patience. You can't expect to run a marathon a week after you begin running. It involves denying yourself certain things you may want because they are not good for your training.

Being a Christian isn't easy as some people would like to lead you to believe. There are constant hurdles that you will come across. They may seem insignificant at the time like missing church one Sunday, not taking time for reading the bible, or not fasting on the prescribed fasts. But when you add them up, they are all designed to keep you from training… to keep you from progressing toward your spiritual goal.

We are going to spend the next 10 minutes in total silence. I will be passing out a reflection sheet, a bible and a pen to each of you. I want you to use this time to think about your spiritual training. If you finish early, I ask that you just use that time to be with God in prayer or reading his word.
Pass out Reflection sheet, bibles and pens to each of the young people. 
When they are done, close with prayer.

CLOSING PRAYER

My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and give praise.
Awake, my glory!
Awake, lute and harp!
I will awaken the dawn.

I will praise You, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing to You among the nations. For Your mercy reaches unto the heavens,
And Your truth unto the clouds.

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
Let Your glory be above all the earth.
Psalm 57:7-11

RUNNING THE RACE: ATHLETES FOR CHRIST

PRAYER

Prayer refreshes and enlivens the soul, as outer air refreshes the body. When we pray we feel stronger and fresher, as we feel physically and spiritually stronger and fresher when we walk in the fresh air.
St. John Kronstadt

How much do I pray personally during each day? How do I pray?

CONFESSION

Enter into the Church and wash away your sins. For here there is a hospital and not a court of law. Do not be ashamed again to enter the Church; be ashamed when you sin, but not when you repent.
St. John Chrysostom

Do I regularly go to confession? How do I prepare for confession?

ALMSGIVING

It is the poor man who holds out his hand but it is God Himself who receives whatever you give to the poor.
St. John Chrysostom

Do I give of my time to help the ministry of the church and others? Do I give of my talent to help the ministry of the church and others? Do I give of my treasure to help the ministry of the church and others?

WORSHIP

We are commanded to worship, not on special days, but continuously - all our life through, and in all possible ways.
St. Clement of Alexandria

What services do I attend at church? Do I actively participate in the service by keeping my mind focused? Do I understand the importance of the different services?

FASTING

Fasting in respect of food is of no benefit to those who fail to fast with all their senses; for whosoever is successfully waging his battle must be temperate in all things.
St. Isidore of Pelusium

When do I fast? How do I fast?

SPIRITUAL READING

Understand the word of Holy Scripture by putting them into practice, and do not fill yourself with conceit by expiating on theoretical ideas.
St. Mark the Ascetic

How often do I read the bible? Do I read other spiritual books? When I read something I don't understand, how do I find answers?

THE COACH

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 
For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow; but woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Do I have a coach to help me with my training? If not, how will I get one?

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