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Talking About Practice

Practice helps us become better. How do we practice faith?
Practice helps us become better. How do we practice faith?

Unfortunately, one of the most defining moments of Allen Iverson’s career was a press conference he had about practice.

“We sitting in here -- I'm supposed to be the franchise player, and we in here talking about practice. I mean, listen: We talking about practice. Not a game. Not a game. Not a game. We talking about practice. Not a game. Not the game that I go out there and die for and play every game like it's my last. Not the game. We talking about practice, man."

It was decried as unprofessional and not a good thing for young, impressionable kids to hear.

Of course, the rant goes deeper than just Iverson dismissing practice, but we don’t have the time to get into that right now.

All of us know, though, the importance of practice.
“Practice makes perfect” you must’ve heard growing up.

Practice helps us become better; it keeps us consistent; it keeps us focused on what we want to achieve. Practice makes our game better. You can’t expect to be good at something, if you don’t put time and effort (read: practice) in it.

The Three General Rules of Methodism are:

  • Do no harm.
  • Do good.
  • Stay in love with God.

That third one is sort of like practice. You’ve got to put time and effort and love into it; you of have to practice to stay in love with God.

It’s like any relationship. You can’t take it for granted and expect everything to stay the same.Relationships take work; it takes effort; it takes commitment; it takes time.

One of the spiritual practices I try to work on is prayer. I firmly believe — though it may be debatable — that there isn’t a “right” or orthodox way to pray. I used to have a high view of prayer because of my background. That prayer needed to happen a certain way and look a certain way and feel a certain way. Having my son, sort of changed that idea.

We have a son on the autism spectrum. He’s nine years old, but his language skills are probably of that a five-year-old child. When he was three, he only knew five words. My biggest hope and goal was to simply communicate with him. I didn’t care how — I just wanted him to be able to talk to me.

I began to wonder if that’s how God often felt: that God didn’t mind how I spoke to God; when we spoke nor  what methods I used to speak — but simply that I was talking to God. That helped me let go of all the “right” ways to pray.

Now I pray when I’m taking a walk; washing the dishes; warming my hands with a cup of coffee; waiting for a meeting to start. All the while still I am setting aside time to be intentionally in a time of prayer, after which I firmly resonate with Lex Orandi Lex Credendi (which essentially means: how we pray affects how we believe).The most important thing is that I pray and keep praying.

At first, I will admit, it feels foreign and awkward and weird and may discourage us enough to stop. But learning anything new is like that. We have to keep going and keep practicing and things will become more natural.

One more basketball reference, if I may:
Game 6 of the 2013 NBA finals between the Heat and the Spurs. The Spurs were running away with the game and were on the brink of winning the championship. Some of the Heat fans left the arena before the game was over to get a beat on the post-game traffic, figuring they had lost.
But then things took a turn of the better (or worse, if you’re a Spurs fan). Ray Allen hit one of the most dramatic (and nearly impossible) shots. It was one of the luckiest shots known to humankind. But, the crazy thing is, Ray Allen practiced that shot all the time. Grab the ball, step back, shoot it in one motion. He practiced it and practiced it and practiced it. When that moment finally came — he wasn’t overwhelmed with the pressure of that moment — his muscle memory took over and he shot the shot just like how he practiced it thousands of times before.

The point is — the more we practice, the more natural it becomes. The people whom I marvel and admire at their strength and spirituality — even in the darkest times of their lives — is because they “practiced” being in commune with God.

Just like with our friends — those who would help us to bury a body, no questions asked. That kind of relationship doesn’t form overnight. It’s because we’ve engaged one another, poured ourselves into them that such bonds exist.

So go pray. Journal your prayers; find breath prayers; dance your prayers; walk your prayers; hike your prayers; swim your prayers; meditate your prayers; just find ways to pray and keep praying.


Joseph Yoo is a West Coaster at heart contently living in Houston, Texas with his wife and son. He serves at Mosaic Church in Houston. Find more of his writing at josephyoo.com.