Every Christian needs to have as his or her goal to– develop and maintain a healthy prayer life. A strong prayer life is essential in our journey toward spiritual maturity. Prayer has been defined as a process of communicating with God. When we communicate with another person, we talk and listen to them. We also spend time in their presence. Our communication can become as intimate and as passionate as we desire it to be. The more we invest in good communication, the better our relationships will be. This is true in our relationships with the people in our lives. It is also true in our relationship with God.
We should commit to a regular habit of praying. Jesus is our model in how we should keep prayer as a priority in our lives. The Scripture says , “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:16). If Jesus needed to make it a regular habit to pray, how much more do we need to find time to make this a consistent practice in our lives. A lack of communication continues to be one of the top reasons why people get divorced. When communication between two people is cut off, it often results in the death of a marriage. Likewise, when we fail to communicate with our Heavenly father on a regular basis, our relationship and fellowship with Him suffers, and our spiritual progress is limited.
Another important thing about prayer to remember ,especially in the early stages of our Christian experience , is that we need to be committed to growing in this area. While the basic idea of prayer comes natural, prayer as a spiritual discipline requires that we become a student of prayer, and learn all we can about the subject so that our prayers can be more effective. As Jesus’ disciples observed his prayer life, they requested of him that he teach them how to pray (Luke 11:1). They wanted to learn to how pray better. As new and growing Christians, we will need to learn how to pray better. This will involve learning how to incorporate in our prayers the principles found in the “Lord’s Prayer.” (Mt. 6:9-13) Learning how to pray also means engaging in spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:10-18). Another important truth about prayer is that when we learn how to abide in Christ we will see results that come in direct response to our specific requests (John 15:7-8).
A light bulb comes on when it is charged with a current of electricity. Without the electricity there will be no light. Prayer in the life of a believer is what electricity is to a light bulb. If we want power to energize our lives and do the things that reflect Christ-like living, it is essential to turn on the power source through prayer. Prayer is so important to the Christian life that Jesus made a point of emphasizing that we should always pray and never give up. He does this by telling a story of a desperate widow in Luke 18:2-5, “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’ “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming.” The point of the parable is that, despite the resistance of the judge, this widow was persistent in her plea for help. And just like this widow, though God is not resistant to us ,we are to pray to God persistently without giving up.
As a follower of Christ, I have discovered seven keys to ensure spiritual growth and vitality. These are basic and can benefit anyone, of any faith persuasion, but especially applies to those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. The first key is Bible study.Bible study is to the spiritual life what bread or food is to the physical life. If we do not eat an adequate amount of food on a daily basis our body becomes weak and unproductive. Most of us have seen pictures of starving children on the television, whose arms and legs are nothing but skin and bones with bloated stomachs, due to a lack of proper nutrition. These helpless children are but a physical illustration of what many people are like in an anemic spiritual condition. A lack of regular consumption of God’s word leaves us powerless, empty, and ineffective . This weakened spiritual state is in stark contrast to the strong, vibrant, and robust life that Jesus came to give those who follow him. (John 10:10) One biblical reference that points to the importance of the Word of God in our lives is found in Matthew’s gospel, chapter four. In this passage Jesus is in the wilderness where he is being tempted by the devil. He was very hungry after having fasted for forty days and forty nights.The very first temptation that the devil brought to him had to do with food. While turning Jesus’ attention to some stones that were near by, Satan said “ If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus’ response showed the importance of providing proper nourishment to both the body and the soul. He said “ It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” So “every word” informs us that we must have a regular intake of the Bible. This type of nourishment comes only through consistent study, reading, meditation,and obedience to God’s Word.
The Bible also makes claims about itself that no other book does. For instance, it is a living book (Hebrews 4:12); it is eternal(1Peter 1:24-25); it revives the soul(Psalm 19:7); and it equips and matures us in the faith (2Timothy 3:16-17). Because of these and other unique characteristics of the Scriptures, it is easy for me to declare without hesitation, that the bible is the most important book that you and I have in our possession. It should therefore be taken even more seriously than the three meals you and I eat each day to keep our physical bodies strong and healthy.The Bible should be read each day. A good plan is to set a goal to read it all the way through, or listen to an audio recording, each year. Read it from Genesis to Revelation, or read the New Testament and then the Old Testament. Read it in different translations, such as, the King James Version (KJV) or the New International Version (NIV).There are several good modern English translations that can help in understanding the Bible in today’s language. It is also helpful to our spiritual development to memorize parts of the Bible. With the way it is designed today, with its books,chapters,and verses divided and punctuated, it is a lot easier to commit many passages to memory. The importance of memorizing scripture is reflected in David’s words in the Psalms when he says “I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you…”(Psalm 119:11) Scripture memorization is one of the best ways to “hide” God’s word in your heart.
Meditation on God’s word is another good way to strengthen your faith and build spiritual muscles. There is a lot of talk today about the importance of meditation. To meditate on the word of God is to think about it, to allow your mind to dwell on it, and to ask mental questions about its meaning and how it applies to specific areas of your life. To meditate is to avoid a quick reading ,or brushing over truths in the Bible without giving them much thought. According to Psalm 1:2, a spiritually successful person “meditates on the word day and night.” Finally, a genuine Bible study program must incorporate a commitment to obey what it teaches. To read the Bible without living out what has been read, will result in having knowledge that will not benefit your life in a practical way. We are not to be hearers of the word without being doers of the word. The Apostle James, who many scholars believe was the half-brother of Jesus,warned those who fail to recognize the importance of putting the teaching of scripture into practice when he said “ do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says (James 1:22).” We should always study the Bible with the intent of discovering how we can apply it to our lives.When we live out the Word, it makes us better people, and enables us to influence our family, neighbors and society in the best possible way. Applying God’s word is the only way to digest it into our spiritual system so that true growth can take place.
I just read a excerpt about loneliness from a chapter in a book by Henri J.M. Nouwen called ” The Wounded Healer.” According to Mr. Nouwen, one of benefits of loneliness is that it helps you to empathize with others. The idea is that–all of us experience loneliness and therefore it can serve to teach us common lessons about the human condition. One such lesson it teaches us is that no person, thing, or experience can satisfy loneliness, and only those who can see it as something to learn from by helping us to identify with others, are able to avoid turning to destructive ways of filling what can sometimes seem inescapable and hopeless. Despite all the attempts of technology to connect us, maybe its time to turn inward…and listen to what loneliness can teach us.