By Summer Stevens
Though I’ve been a Christian most of my life, there are seasons when I’ve felt like I’ve needed to dig into different spiritual practices for growth and nourishment. Sometimes it’s been memorizing large passages of Scripture or doing group Bible studies or praying the Psalms. The Holy Spirit has been faithful to meet me in these places. But then sometimes, knowing my heart so well, He draws me elsewhere.
I’ve been reminded of other spiritual practices lately. They’re certainly not new—not to me in my many years of walking with Jesus, or new in the history of the saints. But they’re new in this season of life with all my children getting older. I’m not physically running after toddlers grinning at the top of the staircase, but I’m coordinating cross country meets and football games and when it’s my turn for the carpool.
Here are the top five changes I’ve been making in my spiritual life.
1. MEDITATION (Not the Weird Kind)
Even some of my good Christian friends have raised an eyebrow when I’ve told them I’m doing more meditation. Though other religions have hijacked it, I’m talking about a thoroughly Christian intentional focus on God and His Word that David describes in the Psalms.
Our world moves so fast and there is always something grabbing for our attention. I got out to pump gas and was startled to see a miniature TV playing (pretty interesting) ads or news clips on the gas pump. Have you been tempted to check your email or social media while waiting at a traffic light? When was the last time you saw someone reading a magazine while waiting at the doctor’s office?
Screens have eliminated those quiet moments—the transitions—in our days. There are studies that prove that people do their best problem solving in the shower. Why? Because they’re not distracted by screens! Meditation allows a few minutes a day where we can carve out time without interruption to focus on God—to think deeply on a passage of Scripture, or talk to Him, or hear from Him before the rush of the day begins. Even five or ten minutes a day has made a big difference in my overall sense of calm and my feeling of connectedness to Jesus. There are apps you can download to lead you in a Christian guided meditation, or simply take a phrase from God’s Word and prayerfully consider the character of God.
2. JESUS STORIES
I was in my late 20s when I had a realization that I didn’t really know the personality of Jesus. It’s easy to relate to someone’s failures and mistakes, but of course we can’t relate to Jesus that way. Sometimes I felt like I knew the personality of the Apostle Paul or King David better than my Savior.
I’ve recently started mentoring a young woman in her early 20s, and the Holy Spirit brought to mind my early struggles with knowing Jesus. So recently, in our weekly meetings, we’ve started doing Gospel studies specifically focused on the character and personality of God. Together we read a story about Jesus a few times through, and then start making a list of all our observations (time of day, who spoke first, details given, etc.). When we’ve exhausted the observations and we feel like we understand the passage and its context, we finish the statement: “Jesus is…” Some passages reveal a dozen or more insights into the personality of Jesus. Jesus is strategic. Jesus is fearless. Jesus is funny. Jesus is generous. Jesus is purposeful.
It’s been awesome to study the Bible for the purpose of knowing Jesus—not only for ourselves, but for a great answer when talking to someone about Him: Let me tell you about my Jesus. He’s kind and creative and surprising.
3. A BREATH OF FRESH AIR
I read a sort of autobiography of C.S. Lewis, and he said that his perfect day would involve a two-hour walk! I love to run, but running requires a lot of motivation. I’ve found that I never have to talk myself into going for a walk. Walking gives me a chance to clear my head, talk to God, think through problems, and enjoy the beauty of the day. And I like the fact that this practice is close to the heart of God. Even in the very beginning of creation, God walked in the Garden in the cool of the day (Gen 3:8). Jesus took long walks through olive groves, along dusty roads, up mountaintops, and on the sea (Matthew 21, Luke 24, Matthew 17, Luke 8). He used the time to teach and to find solace. I think we could adopt Jesus’ practice of walking to the benefit of our spiritual life.
4. EASY INTERCESSION
Years ago in seminary, a professor shared his prayer list method. He took a sheet of computer paper, folded it in half lengthwise, and then in half again. Open up the paper and you have four sections, and of course four on the other side, for a total of eight. Label one section “daily” and the other seven with a day of the week. List your urgent prayer requests or people close to your heart in the daily section, and assign the other things or people in your list to a specific day. You might feel like only praying for your friends once a week isn’t enough—so add them to your daily list, or simply pray more when God brings them to mind. But at least you know that you’re remembering to intercede for government officials, pastors and elders, ministries, missionaries, or extended family on a regular basis. Sometimes I feel so bogged down by urgent needs that I forget to pray faithfully for these people or groups. Returning to this method has helped.
5. MORE ZZZZZs
I’m naturally a night owl. Having children with school schedules and a husband who loves mornings has made getting up early more practical. However, I look forward to the evenings when everyone goes to sleep, and the house is quiet, and no one has a question or needs a drink of water, and I can just wind down. I really love this time. But if I love it too much, then I sabotage the next day. The real discipline (for me) in waking up early starts the night before. I have to go to bed on time to be alert enough to do my morning meditation and prayer, and have energy for a walk, and be mentally engaged when I’m meeting with people and studying Scripture.
Summer Stevens is married to Nathanael and they have five children. She has a Master’s in Biblical Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary and enjoys running (but mostly talking) with friends and reading good books to her kids.