Spiritual Formation in Everything:

Key Practices for Growing in Personal Devotion

Spiritual Formation in Everything: Key Practices for Growing in Personal Devotion

Dr. Brenda Buckwell

House Cleaning! It is a necessity. However, the routine of dusting, scrubbing, doing dishes, and vacuuming can be tedious. Out of all these chores, the vacuum cleaner intrigues me the most. Which other household appliance can pull things into itself!?


According to Blaise Pascal, the French Enlightenment philosopher and mathematician, there is a God-shaped vacuum within us. Can you imagine God has created us with an exclusive yearning for God? God invites us to come with an open heart and open hands for God’s infill of this empty space within us. 


Yet, how often do we find ourselves reaching for something – maybe going to the refrigerator again to fill our hungering heart or drinking a cold one to wash down the stress of the day? We reach for quick fixes to fill the restless God-shaped vacuum within us.


To satisfy this restless yearning, we seek God. Some people are drawn to silence and pious prayer while others go stir-crazy sitting in stillness. Energetic personalities may discover God’s creative-energy-shaping life through active prayers such as hiking or swimming. Others notice God’s presence through the camera lens by taking photographs. 


Practices for growing in personal love, delight, and devotion of God are as varied as our unique image of God in whom we are created.


Spiritual Formation

Just like routine and regular house cleaning, a regular rhythm and intention of prayer are necessary. This intentional process of attentively seeking God’s presence and listening to God’s whispered Word through Scripture, creation, conversations, and many other forms of God’s infilling prayer stirs the spiritual formation process within the depths of our being.


This process is both an attention and intention toward God. The ways we seek and allow God to form our inmost being have both inward and outward influence on our lives. This inward shaping into greater Christlikeness smoothes the rough edges of our impulsive responses to life. Without spiritual formation, our impulsive responses may launch projectiles of explosive emotion (e.g., anger, fear, resentment) into any relationship or life situation. As we participate in daily prayer practices or spiritual disciplines, we gradually notice that our presentation of self to God, others, and even ourselves becomes gentled by Christ. The embodiment of this God-shaping process changes how we see, hear, and move through every dynamic of life.


Spiritual Disciplines

There are many classical and contemporary ways to pray. Silence, the practice of stilling the inner and outer noise and voices, is foundational to spiritual formation. To see and hear beyond the presentation of words and events is also vital for us to notice the ever-increasing God-shaping presence in our personal and collective lives. As we become more Christlike, our character, attitudes, mannerisms, and perceptions of the world shift, and we embody more of God in the world.

As the Rule of St. Benedict describes, spiritual formation allows us to listen with the ear of our hearts rather than just the ears on our heads. In addition, practicing prayer disciplines positions us to increasingly embody the love of Christ in our interactions with others.


Prayer Practices for Daily Spiritual Formation

Using classical and contemporary spiritual disciplines, such as Breath Prayer, Lectio Divina, silence, and movie meditation, we gain a foundational rhythm of opening space within ourselves to hear and see God’s presence amid humanity.

You can practice breath prayer anytime and anyplace as you turn your attention to God. A breath prayer is a 6 -8 syllable phrase that addresses God with the heart’s deepest desire. A classic breath prayer is, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.” Breath prayers often lead us into deepened stillness and silence before and within God.


When we pray Scripture, rather than read for study or sermon preparation, we discover the discipline of Lectio Divina or Divine Reading. Each reading draws our heart deeper and deeper into God’s Word and moves us into open-hearted resting in God. The Scripture is read four times. Here’s how it works.


  1. After the first reading, explore questions you have of the text. Often these are informational. 
  2. Following the second reading, consider what word or phrase jumps out to your heart from the Scripture.
  3. After the third reading, consider how the text intersects with your life.
  4. Following the fourth reading, ponder what God is inviting you to be or do from this Scripture.


Movie Meditation is a contemporary way of seeing God through movies. Here is a link to the lasso the moon video clip from A Wonderful Life. How could God be speaking to you? Like with Lectio Divina, the video is viewed four times. First, become familiar with the video. Then after subsequent viewing consider: As you walk into the New Year, what are your heart’s deepest dreams? Who do you share your dreams with? On the final viewing, contemplate what actions you can take as God empowers you to turn your dreams into new possibilities and reality.


Through the intentional process of spiritual formation, we have the potential to do as Teresa of Avila describes, “Learn to see God in the details of your life, for [God] is everywhere.” So how will you intentionally choose this year to experience new ways of prayer? This decision is truly the key to being formed into the image of Christ for the sake of others.

About the Author,
Dr. Brenda Buckwell

Adjunct Professor of Spiritual Formation

Rev. Dr. Brenda Buckwell is a thoughtful innovator who increases leadership excellence and deepens awareness of God through preaching, spiritual direction, coaching, retreat leadership and education. A United Methodist elder, endorsed spiritual director and coach; Brenda is founder of Living Streams Flowing Water ministry. She teaches spiritual formation, prayer and spiritual direction at Ashland and  Garrett-Evangelical Seminaries. She is part of the teaching team for CenterQuest and Coaching 4 Clergy and author of The Advent of God’s Word, published by the Skylights Path Publishers. Her upcoming book, Spiritual Direction and the Metamorphosis of Church, will be released spring of 2021. Brenda is co-founder of The Fellowship of United Methodist Spiritual Directors and Retreat Leaders (Hearts on fire), an Associate of Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation, Spiritual Directors International and the International Coaching Federation.

Brenda’s Doctor of Ministry in Theology and Leadership is from Garrett Evangelical Seminary. She has an online teaching certification from United Theological Seminary, Dayton and Master of Divinity from Boston University in Biblical Studies and Church History. Her undergraduate BS degree is from Bowling Green State University. As a PCC certificated coach, she is also a trained supervisor of spiritual directors.

Brenda’s enjoys swimming and ballroom dancing as spiritual disciplines. Brenda equally divided her childhood and teen years between St. Paul, MN and Bowling Green, Ohio. She continues to reside in Ohio where both her son and daughter’s families live. Her greatest delight is her children and her grandchildren for whom she strives to be Amma.  

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