Read Your Bible, Pray Every Day

Spiritual Growth: Two Essential Elements

Sometimes, I feel like spiritual growth is a monumentous task that intimidates the snot out of me. I read about people like Paul, Peter, and John in the Bible who, although not perfect, are given as examples of what Christianity should look like. I see people around me who seem to have an unshakable faith and a deep, personal relationship with God and I think to myself, “that’s just not me – I can never be like him/her.”

When I started teaching Bible classes regularly about 5 years ago, I am ashamed to say that there were things that I felt like I could not teach my toddlers because I was not doing them myself. How could I expect them to memorize the books of the Bible when I relied on a cheat sheet? I felt uncomfortable teaching them to pray because that was something I rarely did on my own. Someone should have given me the “mega hypocrite award” for telling them how important their Bible is when I would choose to watch a TV show instead of reading it.

As Simple As A Song

So many truths are expressed in children’s songs – “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” “My God is so big, so strong and so mighty.
There’s nothing my God cannot do.” “He’s got the whole world in his hands.” One song in particular always stuck out to me and made me wonder, can it really be this simple?

Read your Bible.
Pray every day.
And you’ll grow, grow, grow.

Neglect your Bible.
Forget to pray.
And you’ll shrink, shrink, shrink.

I recently described spiritual growth to my 1st and 2nd graders as a plant. They were easily able to tell me the basic two things that a plant needs to grow: sunlight and water. I explained to them that if they wanted to grow spiritually like a tall, strong plant, they needed two things as well: regular Bible study and prayer.

Simple Steps to Spiritual Growth
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Signs of a Healthy Relationship

The truth of the matter is that it really is that simple. The more difficult part is putting it into daily practice in order to see results.

Like any healthy relationship, you need to be able to speak and to listen. Some people don’t mind doing all the talking, but very few like being the only one listening. Good communication is a two-way street and requires both parties to share both roles. We teach our kids that prayer is how we talk to God – and the Bible is how he talks to us.

Spiritual Growth Through Prayer

For some reason, prayer seems to be one of the hardest parts of spiritual life among my Christian friends. We all know it’s important, that it’s even commanded (Luke 6:28, 1 Thessalonians 5:17), and yet it is such a struggle for us.

For me, since God is omniscient (knows everything), he already knows what I’m thinking and what I need. More than that, he already knows what will happen with regard to whatever I’m praying about. And although both points are true, that is not a healthy view of prayer.

A Brief Side Note…

I feel like here I have to say that just because God knows what the future holds, does not mean that he causes it. He is omni-present (God is not in “that rock, tree and creature” as Pocahontas says…that rock, tree, and creature are all in God). God is spirit, and is not bound by time as we are. Think of watching SportsCenter highlights with a friend who did not see the live-action game. If someone throws up a last ditch effort half-court shot and I say “he makes this,” does that mean I caused it? Well no, of course not. I might win the spoiler award from my friend, but I definitely won’t get credit for the game-winning shot.

Ok, back to prayer.

Biblical Examples

The Power of Prayer

We have several examples from the Bible of God answering and acting based upon his people’s prayers. Abraham pleaded for God to not destroy Sodom if there were 50 righteous people within the city, and eventually landed on asking for the sake of 10 righteous people (Genesis 18:22-33). Unfortunately, we know that not even 10 righteous people could be found in the city and that it was ultimately destroyed. Next, Hannah was barren for years and prayed earnestly to be given a child. She even promised God that if he would give her a son, she would give him back to serve God all the days of his life. In time, God gave her a son (Samuel) and Hannah kept her promise (1 Samuel 1 and 2).

In the book of James (5:17-18), we are reminded of Elijah and his fervent prayer that it would not rain, and for 3.5 years, it did not. When Elijah prayed to God for the rains to return, they did.

The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

James 5:16

The Gift of Prayer

Being in Christ and having God as your heavenly Father means that you have access to him in a unique and special way. God is on your side.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Philippians 4:6

Like a father wants to hear from his children, so God wants to hear from us. He wants to hear about your day (the good and the bad), he wants you to thank him for what he’s done, he wants you to ask for what you need. Yes, he already knows what you need (Matthew 6:32), but he has promised to help you and be with you. He wants you to give him “all your anxieties…because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

Practical Tips

Get a Prayer Journal.

A friend got me this one for Christmas and I LOVE it. It has 4 sections to help keep you on track and focused as you pray. Plus, as time goes on, it can be encouraging to look back at previous prayers and see how God has answered them.

Pray throughout the day.

As we teach our girls about God and prayer, we have been praying A LOT more than we used to – which is good!! We pray at all meals (well, sometimes I forget breakfast 😖), Avery prays her own prayer at bedtime (which is always a treat to listen to!), I pray with each girl separately when I lay them down (I want them to hear me pray for them individually and what I am talking to God about specifically for them), and I’ve tried to start asking them if they want to say a prayer when they are frightened or have had a hard day (nothing wrong with praying that they practice obeying mommy and daddy too!). Praying several times a day with different purposes has helped me think about spiritual growth through prayer throughout our daily routine.

Pray out loud.

Not every prayer needs to or should be audible, but I’ve noticed that when I pray out loud, I feel more like I’m talking to God and less like I’m just thinking to myself. It’s also easier for me to keep my mind focused and not let it wander aimlessly.

Pray the Scriptures.

What better words to pray than words given by God himself?! Praying the Bible back to God is a great way to pray when you don’t know what to say. For some helpful guidance on how to do this, check out this post from the blog, I Want Them To Remember.

Spiritual Growth Through Bible Study

So if praying is how we talk to God, reading his revealed Word (the Bible) is how he speaks to us.

Biblical Examples

Throughout the Old Testament times, we have examples of God speaking to his people directly (Gen. 6:13; 12:1, Ex. 33:11) and through the prophets. However, Hebrews 1:1-2 teaches us that “in these last days (referring to the Christian era, after Jesus’ death on the cross) he has spoken to us by his Son.”

Hebrews 4:12 reminds us

the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

We also know that

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

Earlier in 2 Timothy, Paul instructs Timothy to study in order to present himself to God unashamed and with a clear conscience, as he correctly handles the “word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15).

Keys to Spiritual Growth
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Make It Personal

So if all of this power, instruction, and expression of God’s love for us is in the Bible…how much personal benefit will it give if you never crack it open and read it for yourself? It is a dangerous thing to trust your eternal destination to “something somebody said one time.” We are to “work out [our] own salvation” (Phil 2:12) and remember that “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb 10:31).

Are you getting the idea that the knowing what the Bible says is important? That it is everything? Jesus himself said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). How can you keep his commandments if you do not regularly read and study to know what they are?

Practical Tips

Get into a routine.

I’ve found that studying in the same place, at the same time of day helps me to keep Bible study a daily habit. So, immediately after both girls are in bed, I head to our bedroom to study. I like to sprawl out on the floor or on the bed, and I even have certain pens and a highlighter I like to have nearby. My husband knows that that is my study time, so he rarely even comes to the back of the house until I’m through. Some days I spend more or less time, but on average I’d say about 30 minutes. Having my study time before I relax, watch TV, or work on any projects helps me mentally keep my priorities in line and keeps me from being “too tired” later in the evening.

Have a reading partner.

This! There are several ways to do this, but the YouVersion Bible app has a “Plan” feature where you can study with one or more friends. You choose the plan together, and it creates a schedule for you. After completing the day’s assigned reading, you can comment and ask questions of each other based on what you’ve read. Doing this with a friend has really solidified my daily habits, because it keeps me accountable and she can see if I have any “missed days” 🙈. Let me just encourage you to choose plans based on the Bible itself, and not mainly someone’s “devo thoughts” or opinions. The point of Bible study is that you study. the. Bible.

Study with a plan.

I’ve been guilty of opening the Bible to a random page and using that as my study for the day. Sometimes, that can be an interesting thing to do…but could several random readings really be called “studying” or “intentional reading?” We need to consider context, circumstances, and audience when studying which can be difficult to do if I’m always skipping around. So, have some sort of plan or goal for your studies. A “dream without a plan is just a wish” after all. Here are a few ideas…

  • Old Testament, New Testament or entire Bible within a certain time frame (1 year, 3 months, 6 months, etc)
  • Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John)
  • Writings of Paul
  • Individual books of the Bible (I’m working through Hebrews right now)
  • Topical
  • Wisdom and Poetry (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon)
  • Old Testament prophecies and their fulfillment in the New Testament

Spiritual Growth is a Personal Responsibility

As I wrap this up, I also want to point out that spiritual growth is measurable. We can measure children, plants, and animals as they grow…why not check your spiritual stature as well?

If you’ve ever been around a baby, you know how they cry out for milk very frequently. If you’ve ever nursed a baby, I’m sure you’re emphatically nodding your head right now 🤭. Well as Christians, growing in the love and knowledge of God, we are to “long for the spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation – if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Peter 2:2-3). Once you really get a taste of God’s word, you will begin to crave it more and more. It won’t feel right if it’s been very long between “feedings.” You’ll depend on it. You’ll yearn for it.

Potential Markers of Growth

I like lists 😁…here are some other things that may indicate your spiritual growth:

  • Temptations become less alluring
  • Deeper appreciation for previously studied Scriptures
  • A positive change in attitude or outlook
  • Ability (or willingness) to teach others
  • Confidence in promises of God
  • Increase in spiritual thoughts and conversations
  • Frequently singing/humming songs of praise
  • More likely to (cheerfully) serve others

If we think about spiritual growth as climbing a ladder, it may take longer to reach some rungs than others. Seasons of life can definitely affect our spiritual life, however, in those dreary times we must continue to grow and confidently hold to our faith. Some plants grow roots all winter long in order to shoot up quickly once spring arrives. No matter what, God has promised that he will meet us as we genuinely seek him: “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” (James 4:8).

Read your Bible. Pray every day. Keep growing! 🌱

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find: knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.

Matthew 7:7-8

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