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Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Spirit Health Line - Beginning With Daily Prayer

By Kevin L. Freeman

Welcome to The Spirit Health Line: a series that will explore Christian life principles that promote the life, health, and growth of the Christian spirit. This first post in The Spirit Health Line covers the essential discipline of daily prayer as a great starting point for a Christian based program that stimulates the health of the Christian spirit. Remember that the health of the Christian spirit can only be increased by connecting with the Master of spiritual health, the author of life and faith, the doctor of all sickness, God Himself.

Daily prayer is one of the most important disciplines in the Christian life for stimulating the health of the Christian spirit. Prayer sparks learning, growth, and the understanding of Christian life and principles. Prayer is an amazing, personal line of spiritual communication from Christians to God without any middle man, interference, or distortion.

It's just little old me and the Lord of the entire universe when I engage in prayer, and I can use prayer to open my heart and spirit to God. I can ask for aid in my Christian life and health in my spirit, as well as aid and health in the lives and spirits of my family and friends. I can use prayer to bring blessings on my friends and family, and I can use prayer to bring curses on my enemies. As the strength and health of my spirit becomes ever greater in my own life through this Christian discipline, I can even use the Christian principles of prayer to bless my enemies through the grace that God has given me, helping me to gain greater humility, compassion, and a deeper understanding of the forgiveness that the life of Christ has brought to all Christians.

Make no mistake that God hears you when you pray, and although God answers every prayer, His answers wait until the appropriate time to be given. Sometimes, His answer can be a flat out, resounding no. God truly knows what I need to bring health to my spirit and my life, even better than I often think I know it myself, which is why Christian prayer becomes a life changing spiritual exercise of Christian faith with its continual use. Notice, I use the word Christian frequently when outlining these principles; this is for good reason! According to Christ's own teaching in the bible, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6, NIV)

There are countless examples of the effectiveness and power of prayer throughout the bible. In the book of Daniel, chapter 10, Daniel prays and fasts for 21 days before the angel Gabriel can reach him with an answer. This account is a great example of the patience and steadfast determination that God sometimes requires of us before He answers our prayers. I often wonder if I would have the strength to do what Daniel did in order to humble himself before God and wait patiently for His answer.

Another great bible passage, 1 Kings chapter 17, verses17-21, gives us an example of the power of God through prayer as Elijah uses prayer to ask God to bring a kind woman's dead son back to life. God grants his fervent prayer, and Elijah brings a healthy boy down to his shocked mother, who suddenly proclaims that Elijah truly is a servant of the one true God.

The bible also gives us Hebrews chapter 5, verse 7, which says that "During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission." Jesus spent many hours in intense prayer with the Father throughout his life. He taught us to engage in prayer continually in our hearts, both for the sake of our Christian spirits and also in order to remain open to the power and understanding of God. Notice with this passage, however, that although his reverent submission was heard by God, the burden was not lifted from him, and he was not saved from death. Jesus desperately wanted to call down his legions of angels to protect him, but instead he submitted himself to the will of God, and God's will was for him to become a living sacrifice for all the world.

A helpful bible passage regarding the steadfastness of Christian prayer is Ephesians chapter 6, verse 18, which tells us to "Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere."

If you have decided to begin the daily Christian discipline of prayer in your own life, I would encourage you to start a prayer journal, both to track your progress and to look back and see how God has answered your prayers. Keep a prayer list in the front of the book, being sure to include some time for simply waiting quietly to receive the inspiration of the Lord. As the strength and health of your spirit grows, you will find that your prayers will grow with them. Over time, the Christian discipline of prayer will become an essential habit, coming before every action and plan.

Perhaps the greatest Christian example of prayer that has been given to us is the Lord's prayer, given to us by Jesus as an example of healthy Christian prayer. I will leave you with this prayer and the hope that we will all gain the health of the spirit that will come through its use.

God bless us in our Christian journey,

Kevin

You should pray like this:

Our Father in heaven,
help us to honor
your name.
Come and set up
your kingdom,
so that everyone on earth
will obey you,
as you are obeyed
in heaven.
Give us our food for today.
Forgive us for doing wrong,
as we forgive others.
Keep us from being tempted
and protect us from evil.
(Matthew 6:9-13 (Contemporary English Version))


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