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The "40 Day" Challenge
The "40 Day" challenge is an invitation to the spiritual disciplines. It is an invitation because it is optional – you are free to accept this invitation for forty days, accept parts of it or accept it for part of the time, or simply try it to see if it is helpful in your spiritual journey. All spiritual disciplines should be understood as voluntary (i.e., they are not imposed); following a spiritual discipline is a personal, daily decision between a disciple (believer) and God.
The "40 Day" challenge is a discipline. Integrating the spiritual disciplines into your life is a significant challenge in a culture that believes everything should be simple, easy, and quick. Engaging in a spiritual discipline will take significant intentionality, quantity time, and considerable effort. Since these spiritual practices are significantly challenging, no one practices them perfectly. Be gracious with yourself, persevere, and try again.
The "40 Day" challenge is spiritual. The goal of a spiritual discipline is to move closer to God. The purpose of practicing the disciplines is to consciously focus on God, to spend more of our day intentionally thinking about him, and to spend more of our life aware of His presence.
Spiritual disciplines are the building blocks for a rhythm of deeper intimacy with God that nourishes and refreshes our soul. Keeping the disciplines is not to simply accomplish a spiritual activity, but rather to use the discipline as a path to experiencing God's presence. The disciplines are not designed to produce an encounter with God; but a rhythm of practicing his presence. Some disciplines may quickly usher us into to his presence; other disciplines may distract us. (The spiritual disciplines one choses to practice over an extended period of time are known as their "Rule of Life").
At the same time, the spiritual journey was never meant to be traveled alone – even Jesus gathered a small community around him (Mark 3:13-14). The journey into spiritual formation is best done together. While the commitment to community is itself a spiritual discipline, mutual accountability with one or more fellow journeyers enhances the experience. So we invite you to practice each of these forty-day spiritual disciplines together – in community - with an individual or a small group of your choosing.
The "40 day" time frame has a strong biblical and formative background. Moses met God on Mount Sinai: "Moses was there with the Lord for forty days..." (Exodus 34:28). Moses returned to speak with God: "I stayed on the Mountain forty days...and the Lord listened to me..." (Deuteronomy 10:10). In confessing Israel's sins, Moses "fell prostrate before the Lord for forty days..." (Deuteronomy 9:18,24). The spies explored God's promised land for forty days (Numbers 13:25). Before beginning his public ministry, Jesus was led into the desert by the Spirit to fast for forty days (Matthew 4:1). After his resurrection, Jesus spent forty days present with his disciples (Acts 1:13). But the most used reference in spiritual formation is the story of Elijah journeying forty days (without physical nourishment) toward Mount Horeb (Sinai) in search of God. On this occasion God did not come in majestic displays of his power and glory as he had to Moses, he came in a whisper (1 Kings 19:9f).
Resources for Way of Life and Spiritual Practices