One Sure-Fire Way to Grow in Spiritual Health this Summer

Before we begin, join me, for the sake of argument, in assuming two things:

  1. You have a spirit.
  2. Your spirit could be healthier.

Your spirit is the deepest core of who you are.  It’s the truest essence of “self” that you have. It’s your very life. When your spirit departs your body (i.e. when you die), your body dies. Ever since our Creator breathed the first human spirit into the first human body (creating the first human being), all people ever since have been both physical and spiritual (or “psychosomatic”).  While it is relatively easy to find reliable data on how to pursue physical health, when it comes to spiritual health, things get a littler more murky. There are countless traditions, techniques, and writings out there on how to grow in spiritual health, but I want to suggest one simple, repeatable, and enormously beneficial practice that is guaranteed to grow you in spiritual health.

That practice is: study the Bible with followers of Jesus.

Now, you might object that you aren’t a Christian. That’s fine, you don’t have to be one, to study the Bible with some. If you live close to a Bible-believing church, call them up and see if your local pastor or church leader can recommend any Bible-study groups meeting in your neighborhood. But the goal must be to get into a group where followers of Jesus–Christians–are studying the Bible together.

Why do I say that this practice is guaranteed to grow you spiritually? There are three reasons:

It’s God’s own recommendation for spiritual growth.

In the ancient book of Deuteronomy, it’s recorded that God told His people, “man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3). Later, in another book (Hebrews, chapter 10), it is written, “…let us watch out for one another to provoke love and good works, not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching.” So the Bible is like food for the soul, and we’re instructed to gather together for encouragement. Together, we see a strong recommendation for studying the Bible together. 

It will give you access to supernatural insight.

Jesus famously told His disciples, “…I tell you truly that if two of you on the earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by My Father in heaven. For where two or three gather together in my name, there I am with them” (Matthew 18:19-20). Jesus does not physically show up at every gathering of His followers; rather He shows up by God’s Spirit–the Holy Spirit, who indwells every true Christian. When Christians gather together around God’s word, they should expect the Holy Spirit to give them insights together that transcend anything they could come up with on their own. This insight is relevant to life changes, to one’s relationships to God and others, and to simply understanding life’s important questions.

It works.

Studying the Bible with Christians has been one of the top three practices that have grown me spiritually. In other words, I know from experience. In case you’re wondering, the other two practices have been prayer and teaching (what you prepare for, you learn!). When I think back on the periods of my life in which I grew the most spiritually–when I grew in peace, humility and confidence, when my heart grew larger toward my fellowmen, I immediately think of early morning and late night conversations with followers of Jesus, had while studying Scripture together.

Where to find a group:

Many churches (and probably one in your area) offer small group ministries or so-called Sunday School classes. If you happen to find yourself in Chicago, click here to get connected through Park Community Church. Again, whether you have faith or not, whether you consider yourself a strong believer or are just looking into spirituality for the first time, my recommendation is: get in a group and study the Bible with followers of Jesus. It’s God’s own recommendation, it will give you access to supernatural insight, and it works.

App Recommendation: PrayerMate

I used to be a youth pastor. And one of the most significant events on any youth ministry’s calendar is the annual lock-in. They take a ton of prep work and team building, but the intense teaching, prayer and sharing time can have an incredible impact on the students who attend.  I remember one time at one such lock-in, my friend Larry, who was serving as one of the guys’ group leaders, asked his small group a question: “If you had God’s cell number, and you could ask Him any one question, what would you ask?” That question sparked some deep, thoughtful answers from the students–who ranged from spiritually mature to more immature. Of course, the question is somewhat unrealistic, given that God doesn’t have a phone number. Yet it also communicated a powerful point that night, because the fact is, we can talk to God anytime we want. He is easier to reach than if we had Him on speed dial; we can contact Him through prayer.

Prayer, I submit, is probably the most powerful, most under-utilized resource of the Christian life.

Now, if you are not yet a follower of Jesus, maybe you pray and maybe you do not (I know unbelievers who do all the time, and some who would not dream of it). But I would pause right now and encourage you to pray the most important prayer of your life: repent of your sin and receive Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord. The Bible promises that, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). This is because, “One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation” (Romans 10:10). If you call out to Jesus in prayer to save you, He will not deny you. 

Alright, I am going to make the assumption that every (former) non-Christian reading this post has now become a Christian, and that everyone reading this is now officially following Jesus Christ (a bold assumption? Certainly. But go with me here).

Now, my dear Christ-following friend, let’s talk about Larry’s question. If you could get God on the phone, what would you ask Him? Or what would you share with Him? Or what would you praise Him for? Or what would you confess? What kind of help would you request? Again, we do not need to pick up the phone. We can close our eyes or look skyward and simply speak to Him, and He will hear us. How astonishing should that be to us? And how much do we take that for granted? How much do we neglect this wonderful opportunity that we have to communicate with our Father and Creator?

If you are like me, you wish your prayer life were better. You know you ought to pray more. You have even promised some people that you could pray for them (if you came to this post from Facebook, maybe you recently commented “praying!” on someone’s post. Sound familiar?), but for some reason you cannot seem to get any kind of consistency in prayer. Maybe you have read or heard about the great men and women of the faith who prayed for hours a day and saw God provide in magnificent ways. Whatever your situation, if you are Christian, you ought to pray, and pray often. But we don’t pray like we should. Why not?

We don’t pray because we are busy. We don’t pray because we don’t really understand how it works, or because we have unanswered questions about prayer’s effects. We don’t pray because we simply don’t think about it, or we forget. We don’t pray because we believe we think prayer is only for dire circumstances, and life (while frantic at times) is under control right now. We’ll get serious about prayer, but… later. When we can figure it out.

My friends, that time has come. I present to you, the PrayerMate prayer app. I will cut to the chase (because I have recommended PrayerMate before): PrayerMate has transformed my prayer life. Its features are super practical and helpful. It lets you quickly create prayer categories and customize how many requests you want to pray for (and from which categories) every session. Then it shuffles your prayer “cards” for you, so that you never pray for the same request in any category twice, before you get to them all.

getting_started1I have tried prayer journals, but I don’t always have my journal with me, and it becomes hard to track the requests as God answered them. PrayerMate lets you archive subjects when they are answered or no longer relevant. It will also let you set push notifications, reminding you to pray at certain times of day. It is super easy to set up.

I have been using PrayerMate for about two years now. Recently, however, I upped my game. I actually deleted my Instagram app (a huge time waster for me), and set my PrayerMate app to serve me up three subjects per session. Now, when I habitually grab for my phone, instead of flipping through Insta-time-wasting pictures, I send up three quick prayer requests. And every session ends with, “Now may the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus” (from Philippians 4:7). So multiple times a day, I’m praying God’s peace over my heart and mind. This is having an impact on my decision-making and wisdom already.

You and I have the ability to speak with God. Let’s not waste another day on prayerlessness.