Spiritual Weaning: Lessons in Discipleship

The typing of this blog coincided with fall weaning in the Sandhills. I’m in a reflective state as I sit by our picture window and listen to the cattle cacophony outside in the nearby corrals full of bawling cows and calves. It’s been going on for hours and happens every fall when the hard-working ranchers and their trusty horses separate hundreds of pairs of mamas and babies. 

The weaning of cow/calf pairs generally occurs at 6-10 months when the calves are no longer dependent on their mom’s milk. A mama cow will bond instantly with her calf if all goes well during delivery. The cow memorizes the smell of her calf and can find it again even if they get separated in a large pasture full of other cow/calf pairs. It’s no wonder there’s loud disagreement even though the timing for weaning is perfect.

It’s not so different with spiritual weaning in the lives of disciple-makers.

After twenty weaning seasons in the Sandhills, I’m beginning to see some spiritual parallels when it comes to discipleship. There’s a bond that forms during a season of intentional spiritual growth between a pair of believers. I’ll be the first to admit my feelings of inadequacy when it comes to discipling other women, but rarely does any mom feel completely adequate in the task of raising a newborn or of weaning that newborn off of milk and onto solids when it’s time. Spiritual mothering looks beyond the day-to-day discomforts and insecurities to Jehovah Jireh who provides all we need to disciple the spiritual daughters He entrusts to us. 

I’ll use four of my favorite acronyms to share how discipleship has worked in my life. 

PRAY- This was top priority for Jesus’ disciples who asked their Teacher early on to show them how to pray. Jesus’ prayer life prompted one of His disciples to ask for instruction in prayer (Luke 11:1-4). I’ve found that praying back Scripture with other women for approximately one hour/week is the backbone for discipleship. Praying together leads to discussion and questions pertaining to our faith in a God who hears our prayers and who helps us know how to walk out our faith.

P- Praise  Praising God together for His character sets the tone for an hour of prayer. I like using the prayer resources at momsinprayer.org. 

R- Repent Repenting to God out loud keeps us humble. Don’t rush this step, whether teaching it or practicing it. The first few times a mentor did this with me were a bit awkward, but I’ve experienced the peace, hope, and healing of confessing my sins to one another. James 5:16a, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. 

A- Ask We ask with more pure motives after praising God and repenting of our sins. A natural outflow of James 5:16a is 5:16b, “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” My Sandhills 24/7 prayer partner and mentor, Janet Parkhurst wrote out one way to ‘pray around the circle’ of needs. (See below)

Y- Yield We listen to and obey whatever the Spirit prompts in us. This is a great way to end an hour of praying together and helps set the week’s discipleship pace until next week’s prayer time. My mentor will often ask me accountability questions after our prayer time and is intentional to point me towards discipling others, so that spiritual weaning and the discipleship process is constantly in motion. She often passes on final encouragement to listen to the Spirit in my week ahead. 

PRAYer Circles- Living in a ranching area where cattle far outnumber people, I’ve seen pros and cons of herd mentality. It’s a negative when the cattle work against those on horseback moving them to a different pasture. It’s a positive when heifers (young cows) realize their dependency on each other as they will leave a group of about 10 baby calves under the care of one heifer while they go to the nearest watering place. I’ve experienced the great blessing of group discipleship through a Romans 12:12 ladies prayer group. Our leader asks each lady to share how we are ‘rejoicing in hope’, how we are being ‘patient in tribulation,’ then we ‘pray without ceasing’. Lately, we also encourage and hold each other accountable throughout the week to be Spirit-led in the prayer discipline of fasting. Find or form a prayer circle!

PRAYerwalking- My first local prayer walk was with my 24/7 prayer partner, Janet. It led to a monthly prayer walk, inviting anyone to join. We use printables at waymarkers.org and WALK= Worship; Ask; Listen; Know your Land from 24-7prayer.com). 

PRAY leads us to SWAP. As we form a discipleship bond and backbone through praying together, we also enjoy never-ending spiritual dance lessons of walking by the Spirit. After three years of walking with Jesus, the disciples would experience a sort of spiritual weaning from their Teacher along with instructions to continue His mission but not until they received power from high (Luke 24:48-49). As the late Steve Smith writes in Spirit Walk, “He set them on the ancient path of the Spirit Walk.” Steve uses the acronym SWAP as “a spiritual posture for the Spirit Walk” writing: “Jesus could have focused on the methods and processes He had modeled for His disciples. He could have made lists and gone over action items. Instead, He described for them the utter importance of relying on the coming Spirit and the fruit that would emerge from this relationship.” John 14:12, 16-17.

Janet and I chose to read and discuss Spirit Walk after our hour of prayer. We loved the practical and powerful truths packed into the acronym SWAP. Janet even had her husband weld these letters together to hang in their ranch house.

S- Surrender to His will and His every word
W- Wait on God in prayer
A- Avoid sin and let God root out all unrighteousness
P- Pursue the promptings of the Spirit  

I encourage you to ask/journal, ‘How can I SWAP in my life today?’ I’ll attach an accompanying SWAP sheet to help with your personal assessment that my friend Janet put together. (See below) Steve Smith writes a lot on what it means to abide as a disciple of Christ. I worked with Janet and Nicole (who first recommended Spirit Walk to me) to form an original ABIDE acronym:

A- Always Attached
B- Being Spirit-Filled
I- Intimate Union
D- Daily Direction (from God’s Word)
E- Epic Enjoyment 

I’ll conclude with an acronymical Discipleship conglomeration of PRAY/WALK + SWAP/ABIDE. Be encouraged as you go out as a disciple-maker!

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About Denna Busenitz

Denna and her husband, Kurt, have five children (3 teens and 2 tweens) and have been church planters with RHMA in the Sandhills Region of Nebraska nearly 20 years. Kurt pastors Sandhills Church of Hope- ‘one church with two locations’ in small-town and rural NE. Denna has a music degree from Moody Bible Institute and helps coordinate music at church. Her weeks are filled with Moms in Prayer groups, kids club/youth ministries and organizing the family calendar. She serves on her local grocery store board and substitutes at school.