When it comes to spiritual development, I sometimes find myself in a difficult spot. I can’t really recommend my particular approach to growing in faith to too many people–and in fact, some that I do tell about it find it just a bit strange. For example, part of my personal devotional life consists or reading the Bible every morning–but I do that reading while I am exercising using an exercise bike. I pray–but my best prayer times come when I am walking or driving in Canada–driving in Kenya causes me to pray but for a whole different reason having more to do with survival than devotion.
As I have thought about the devotional life that needs to be a part of spiritual growth, I realized that in the end, everyone is going to have a different approach, one that fits their needs for spiritual growth into the context of their life and needs. I know people, for example, who can sit and pray for hours, a devotional act highly recommended in many biographies of spiritual giants. But for me, praying for hours has never worked–and a major part of the reason is that I have never been able to sit still for hours. Even when I do pray, I hop around from prayer to thinking about what I am writing to what I will cook for supper to praying to being irritated with the pain from my bad knee. I pray but not with the focused prayer some seem to be able to do.
With all that in mind, I realized that there is no one approach to developing a devotional life that will aid in spiritual growth. We are all different and will have different needs when it comes to developing our spiritual growth patterns. So, instead of looking at a specific approach, I will look at some of the things that have proven to be a valuable part of developing a strong devotional life that will aid in spiritual growth.
One of the first requirements is time. And that time should probably be scheduled time. We need to know that there will be a space for us to exercise our spiritual muscles during the day. When that will be depends on our personal time sense and the demands of our day and life. But essentially, morning people should find morning time and night people should find night time–we need to be at our best when we seek God. The amount of time will vary as well but should total at least 30 minutes a day–more is better but not always available.
We need to read and study the Bible. Listening to the Bible being read is a good substitute for many. But we need to spend time with the Bible. If we read just 5 chapters a day, we can read the Bible in about a year. There are lots of guides and reading plans and speciality Bibles to make the process easier but in the end, it takes discipline and commitment.
We need to think. If we are going to integrate our new faith in our life, we need to spend time looking at both the faith and our life. We need to think about the meaning of what we read and see and how it could/should affect our lives. Some might choose to call this meditation.
We need to listen. Growing in faith is built on connecting with God. But it is hard to hear God speak in our lives because there is so much noise from so many different sources clamouring for our attention. Learning to silence our lives and listen for God is an important part of growing in faith.
We need prayer. Prayer that helps us grow in faith is the honest and open expression of what it in our hearts and minds. Prayer is not just a list of requests to God–it is a conversation with someone who knows us completely and loves us completely so we don’t have to hide anything. Honest prayer says it all to God because he invites us to say it all.
We need to include physical and emotional self care in our spiritual growth as well. If we don’t look after the body and mind that God has given us, we are undermining everything, including our spiritual growth.
As we design a personal spiritual growth process, these elements will help. There is another element that is so important that we will look at it by itself tomorrow.
May the peace of God be with you.