Prayer and Verses on Self-Discipline

Dear Lord: Please don’t let me continue putting off until later what I can do today. I do not know what tomorrow may bring or how many days I have on this earth. Please instill in me a sense of urgency and help spur me into motion rather than squandering my free time.

I know that I need to meditate and recharge to be able to have  the right mindset, but please help me find a balance or help me do small things then rest, or think of small rewards which I can look forward to in order to make the things I don’t want to do more bearable.

Help me not just to make lists, but to also do the things on the lists whether it takes a day, a weekend, or a month or longer to complete.

When I’m trying to break a bad habit or cultivate a new better habit, help me to get a few successes under my belt so that I do not want to throw it all away for a momentary and usually dissatisfying experience.

Dear Lord, thank you for being strong when I am weak. Thank you for being a rock that I can cling to.  Thank you for giving me courage in my storms. Please help me to call on you in my times of temptation and when I feel that I can’t go on or can’t do something.

Please help me put those negative thoughts away and know that I can do things and that you will help me and never leave me. Please help me know that I have great strength inside of myself and that if I can get my mind and attitude right that I can resist the things that are bad for me and stick to my plans and goals to help me achieve great successes in my life.

I know that times will be hard and I will want to give up, but please help me to keep fighting the evil forces and naysayers and those who try to thwart my attempts, and help me to block out Satan’s stumbling blocks and things that get me off track or divert my attention from the prize.

Please help me to think of my goal as not only selfish things to make my life better, but also ways in which I can glorify your kingdom and be a better witness to others: both other Christians and non-believers.

Help me to set a good example for others and be an inspiration to those who need it. Please help me find motivation and energy to tackle the things I dread.

Please give me wisdom and send angels of mercy in whatever forms you deem necessary who will help give me encouragement when I am down and help me refocus when I have temporary setbacks.

Please help me not to think of my setbacks as failures but rather as learning experiences so that I know what not to do next time. Please give me the motivation and willpower to be the best that I can be for myself and for you.

Thank you Lord for all you do and are for me. I ask this in your Holy name. Amen.

Here are ten Bible verses about self-discipline and self-control to meditate on:

They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. Hebrews 12:10

Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh. Romans 13:14

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.  Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.1 Corinthians 9:24-27

But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment.  Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world. 1 Corinthians 11:31-32

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7

How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word.  I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.  I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:9-11

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. James 1:12

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.  Revelation 2:10

Self-Discipline

I have recently written a couple of articles for Prayer Igniters International’s website http://www.prayerideas.org/. A portion of this post first appeared on their site. And, as you can see, I just figured out how to do hyperlinks.  I hope I’ve done them correctly & you can see what I’ve referenced for yourself if you choose.

A Bible verse I found when writing my Weight Loss Prayer is: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”  Hebrews 12: 11.  This really resonated with me.  It reminded me of the discipline I found when I quit smoking then a few years later quit drinking and what I am trying to tap back into to lose weight.

What is self-discipline? Oxford Dictionary defines it as: “the ability to control one’s feelings and overcome one’s weaknesses; the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptations to abandon it.”  You can almost use the words self-discipline and self-control interchangeably.  Self-discipline takes a lot of self-control stringed together.  Self-control is “the ability to control oneself, in particular one’s emotions and desires, especially in difficult situations.”

I googled “How to develop self-discipline” and two articles by Forbes were the first to pop up.  In the first one by Jennifer Cohen titled “5 Proven Methods for Gaining Self Discipline” Cohen wrote, “There are many important qualities that can contribute to a person’s achievements and happiness, but there is only one that begets sustainable, long term success in all aspects of life – self-discipline. Whether in terms of your diet, fitness, work ethic, or relationships,  self-discipline is the number one trait needed to accomplish goals, lead a healthy lifestyle, and ultimately, to be happy.” I believe that she is on to something.

Her five methods are: “remove temptations; eat regularly and healthily; don’t wait for it to “feel right”; schedule breaks, treats, and rewards for yourself; and forgive yourself and move forward.”

In the second Forbes article, “6 Ways To Develop The Self-Discipline Necessary To Reach Your Goals” Amy Morin lists her six strategies as “acknowledge your weaknesses; establish a clear plan; remove the temptations when necessary; practice tolerating emotional discomfort; visualize the long-term rewards; and recover from mistakes effectively.”

In an article I found by Z. Hereford, he calls self-discipline “The Foundation for Success”. In the opening paragraph of their article on the subject much like the Forbes articles, it states, “No personal success, achievement, or goal, can be realized without self-discipline.  It is singularly the most important attribute needed to achieve any type of personal excellence, athletic excellence, virtuosity in the arts, or otherwise outstanding performance.” The article lists the ways to develop self-discipline as “start with baby steps; learn what motivates you and what your bad triggers are; make certain behaviors a routine; practice self-denial; engage in sports or activities; get inspiration from those you admire; and visualize the rewards.” The benefits this article lists (paraphrased by me) are building self-confidence,: being able to accomplish more and maintain a higher tolerance for frustration; conquering obstacles and handling negative emotions; obtaining better health and finances; developing a good work ethic; and finally, being able to reach your most difficult goals more efficiently and having life become easier for you.

So all this sounds good, but is self-discipline really the one most important thing we need to be successful? I would argue that the most important thing we need is God.  We need his love, forgiveness, strength, encouragement, grace, mercy, example of sacrifice, and His disciplining us so that we can learn to discipline ourselves. God is the fountain we should be drawing from to help us so that we can obtain self-discipline so that we may then succeed with our goals and aspirations, find God’s best for us, reach our full potential, and thrive.

I have been reading Your Great Name: Discovering Power for Your Life in the Awesome Names of God” by Michael Neale as part of my morning devotional.  One of the names listed for God is Jehovah Ez-Lami which means The Lord is My Strength. The scripture that accompanies this chapter is Psalm 28: 7,9: “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him… Save your people and bless your inheritance; be their shepherd and carry them forever.” Neale also quotes Mother Teresa, “I don’t think there is anyone who needs God’s help and grace as much as I do.  Sometimes I feel so helpless and weak. I think that is why God uses me. Because I cannot depend on my own strength, I rely on Him twenty-four hours a day.”

Isn’t that how we all should be???  But, if you are like me, I often rely on my own devices and strength rather than seeking assistance from God who can help me do what I cannot do on my own.  Because I do not ask Him for help, when left to my own devices, I often fail when attempting to exercise self-control and use self-discipline.

One of my favorite Bible verses is, “And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Romans 5:2-4 Perseverance requires self-discipline and it can often feel like suffering. It seems ironic to actually rejoice in suffering, but we can rejoice that it is only for a short time and that one day we will see the benefits which include building our character and giving us hope (not only for our remaining time here on earth but for the promise that all Christians have of paradise and an eternal life through Jesus’ love and sacrifice).

I found another translation of Romans 5:3-5: “Let us exult and triumph in our troubles and rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that pressure and affliction and hardship produce patient and unswerving endurance.  And endurance (fortitude) develops maturity of character (approved faith and tried integrity). And character [of this sort] produces [the habit of] joyful and confident hope of eternal salvation. Such hope never disappoints or deludes or shames us, for God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us.”  (The Amplified Bible)  I think it is interesting how different translations and reading just before and after a verse to get the context bring new meaning to scripture.

The Forbes thought of the day where I got some of the information I listed earlier, is a quote by John Quincy Adams: “Courage & perseverance have a magical talisman, before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish into air.” I don’t know what talisman he refers to, but I’d like to think of it as the cross.  The former President was a devout Christian and for many years was a member of the American Bible Society.

One area of my life that I have been (for the most part) faithful and successful in is giving up something for lent.  (But, not so much adding something.) When you put it in terms of Jesus denying himself things for 40 days in the desert despite being tempted by Satan to my small temptations, it’s easy to deprive myself for a little while usually of some type of food or beverage such as Coca-Cola, or chocolate, or this year jelly beans and French fries, or one year pizza. Sometimes I continue well beyond lent, but sometimes the last days before Easter I’m chomping at the bit to taste whatever I have given up.  I wish that I could harness that strength and self-discipline every day and always think of it in terms of Jesus. But in reality, that is much easier said than done.  It is something I will have to practice.

I guess if you look at it as something you’re doing now, then create a habit and get momentum and build on your successes, then maybe your chances of success are greater. I quit smoking numerous times, even for one year and nine months once, but would always pick it back up.  Until, finally, when I was 29, I thought to myself, “I’m about to really be an adult. I need to quit this childish stuff.” I smoked the last 5 cigarettes in the pack in a row and got a nice little buzz. Then I thought I’ll just see how long I can go without one. It has now been 12 years that I have “stayed quit” as I call it. Do I still think about it? Yes, occasionally when I’m stressed out or have had a big meal and want something to top it off, but it’s not something I seriously want to act on or go back to.

I’m not an alcoholic, but have definitely abused alcohol in the past and finally realized drinking was something I shouldn’t do.  I do sometimes want one, but luckily, God has provided things such as smoothies, fruit drinks, and non-alcoholic beer which let me have the taste I like and would miss, without having the unwanted alcohol too.  That makes me happy. I’ve learned that a lot of times when we sacrifice something, God provides us with something just as good or even better to replace it.

I often make lists of what I need to do and then find satisfaction in checking things off as I complete them.  It may take a long time to get to things. Sometimes I have to create a second list for more long term items or I keep making new lists and the same things wind up on the new ones.  Making lists helps me prioritize what needs to be done first and is most important from things that can wait.  It also helps me group like tasks together so that I can maximize my time and am not running back and forth across town. It helps me develop a strategy and plan to get things done.

Often times, for me, just getting started (like doing work at home, or studying, or chores, or especially mowing the lawn) is the hardest part. Most of the time once I’m doing it, I end up enjoying what I thought would be unpleasant or seemed to be too large of a job.  Once I actually get started I can spend hours happily doing the task and it is not as bad as I envisioned. Procrastination and inactivity only makes the dread worse and builds up the anxiety and makes it seem more daunting than it really is.

In the past coming up with a schedule for working out and sticking to it was what helped me be the most successful. I try to do that now, but all too often life seems to get in the way of my plans. Sometimes it is other obligations, but more often I think I’m too tired to exercise.  However, when I push myself to do it anyway, although I’m still tired afterward, it’s different.  I feel invigorated and energized and healthier.  When I string several days together at the gym I feel better and begin to really see the difference.

I think and have read that self-discipline is doing things we know we should do even when we don’t want to or feel like it. It’s also self-deprivation which is not fun but necessary. It doesn’t have to mean you can’t be nice to yourself by moderation or finding other rewards, but sometimes moderation is not possible because we can’t handle it and will backslide and sabotage ourselves because yes, we are just that weak.

But self-discipline is not just about changing bad habits. It is also necessary to accomplish the goals we set for ourselves such as finishing a degree or getting a certain job, saving for a car, paying off debt, or any number of things which make our life better or are dreams we have which may have seemed unlikely in the past. With hard work, determination, and self-discipline, we can do most things we set our mind to if they are part of God’s plan for us.

Well, this is getting pretty long, so I’ll post the prayer and the Bible verses that go along with this in my next blog.

Learning to Trust God When He Speaks to Me

A few weeks ago a new friend said she was adding me to one of her answered prayers list after she had prayed for my interview which went well.  Since she told me about her list, I’ve been thinking of writing down my own list of answered prayers.  (I already write 5 things I’m thankful for each day in a gratitude journal after reading about it in a devotional.)  I finally decided to begin a list of answered prayers Wednesday  after noticing all the check marks I had on my prayer list of things that had come to pass.  I ended up with 39 answered prayers!   

Also, that morning I was using a technique I had read about (writing to God then writing down what He speaks to you).  I’ve done it a couple of times now but wasn’t sure whether I was really hearing God.  This time He told me a lot of  reaffirming things He’s already said and showed me but that I have stubbornly questioned whether it was really Him speaking or what I wanted to hear (whether it was my will and not His will). Near the end of our conversation, He told me “I will show you a humming bird today so be looking for it”.  (I hadn’t seen one at the feeder at my house all year.) 

I thought He meant at my feeder, but as I sat in my swing on my deck (which is on the other side of the house from the feeder and where I have also seen them) I realized He could have meant anywhere and not just at my house.  I wasn’t sure what I needed to do for it to happen. Later I realized I couldn’t make it happen, but it turned out I had to do my part by putting out fresh nectar.

It wasn’t until late in the day that I realized the feeder was empty. I didn’t get to spend much time looking at the feeder because I took a long nap in the afternoon.   I had also been afraid to change the nectar because I thought the hummingbirds may not find it in time for it to come true that day. 

When I realized the feeder was empty, I looked at the bottle of nectar I had.  It was yellowish and I thought it was supposed to be clear.  I looked for an expiration date because I had it a few seasons and realized it had expired in August of last year.  I felt bad that was what I put out this spring and what they seemed to be drinking because the liquid had been going down in the feeder. 

 I decided I would try making sugar water rather than buying more nectar.  It was my first time making it. I called a friend and asked her what ratio of sugar to water she uses.  I didn’t  have much of the day left because it was after 5 p.m. and I had to eat and get ready for a Bible study. It didn’t take long for the sugar to dissolve after heating it and then for it to cool and me to fill up the feeder and put it outside.  I was hoping while I showered, the hummingbirds would be finding it.  I looked for them before I left, but was running late so I didn’t get to look for long.

 It was 8:30 p.m. when I got out of class and it was sprinkling and almost dusk.  (I had forgotten about it and spent time talking after we got out of class.) When I got in the car I remembered God’s words so I eagerly drove home to see if I could see a hummingbird.    I wondered if I still had time for God to show me one.  I wanted to believe and I was afraid of what it would mean to me if I didn’t see it.  My friend had mentioned she never sees them in the early morning or late evening so I was worried.

 When I got home, I stayed in my car which faces the feeder. In past years I have usually seen hummers when I am in my car.  I finished my drink and listened to the radio while I watched. Sure enough, after about a minute, through the raindrops on my windshield, I saw the tiniest of hummingbirds come to feed there.  It came back several times.

I was so happy! And, what God had been telling me was about my future spouse and children which I have waited on and prayed for a long time.  And, I have heard that hummingbirds mate for life, so I thought it was a very good sign that God gave me. 

It helped me realize that I can and do hear God talk to me and that it is not just my voice in my head.  It was a bit of a breakthrough on my hope, faith, and belief journey. I slept really good that night feeling like I was wrapped in God’s loving and comforting arms.

Now I just need to remember this when I start doubting what He tells me.  I pray that what He said about my husband and children will happen like He’s said and that I can have faith and believe that it is true while also being patient and letting it happen in His time.

I hope you hear God speak to you today and that you find your hummingbird.