If you want to get better at something you have to practice. This is not news, and shouldn’t be a hard sell. But the parallels between my musical life and spiritual life hit me hard as I was spending time with the Lord this morning.

I learned to play guitar when I was in college. Surrounded by guitar playing friends and challenged to play praise songs, my skills grew. Then I played regularly for our church for a while and was even better. That was twenty years ago, when I reached a plateau, or even a gradual descent. Today, my fingers are terribly rusty. Every once in a while, my team asks me to play guitar in a prayer meeting. I’m always happy to, but my fingers don’t obey like they should. The basics are there, but the finer details are confused.

Contrast this with the staggering progress my sons have playing violin and flute. They both are exceptional musicians, taking classes and practicing as often as they can. It’s not uncommon for us to tell them they need to do their homework before they practice so time doesn’t get out of hand – they enjoy practicing that much. They love finding time for extended practice, and when we go on a biking trip or skiing trip it’s agonizing for them to be away from their instruments for so long. They play their instruments fluently, naturally, amazingly.

Here is what struck me, my spiritual life is more like me playing the guitar than Silas playing violin or Efrem playing flute. I’ve heard you can play a large percentage of songs using just three chords. The gospel message is profoundly simple yet profound in impact. It goes a long way, but it’s just the beginning of the journey. I feel like my spiritual progress has plateaued and too often I fall back on the same three chords. I am not a spiritual virtuoso. I am convinced that if I want to see God’s perspective, to pray in his will, and overflow with his love, I need to regularly have time with him. Like doing scales or playing through a song, I need to read his word and meditate on it, turn even more often to him in prayer, and long for extended periods with God. If I’m as faithful as my boys are practicing their instruments, the results will be fluent and natural instead of rusty and awkward.

Slow down a moment and ask yourself how you’re doing in practicing the presence of God? Maybe we can all take a step toward being more virtuoso in our walks with him.