A decade ago I was in a season of life where I spent up to six hours a day in prayer. It was a powerful season, a beautiful season, a season that really grew my relationship with God and my spiritual health. And then life seasons changed.
I no longer had all that time available every day for prayer. Not because I didn’t value it, or want to make the time, but because the season I was moving into with God called for my time to be used in different ways.
Maybe you’re in a similar transition. You used to have long, uninterrupted time you could just sit in silence with the Lord, read your Bible, and pray. Now, because of kids, marriage, job, and general life there just isn’t time for such leisurely prayer and devotional time as there used to be.
After that season spending so much time in prayer each day, it was easy for the enemy to accuse me of being far from God – You only spent ten minutes in prayer today, you must not love God at all – and even easier to forget whose voice I was listening to.
It was hard to know when I was in a healthy place spiritually because the external benchmarks I’d been using to gauge my relationship with God no longer worked.
We get tricked so often into gauging our spiritual health based on the things we do. As Peter Scazzero puts it in Emotionally Healthy Spirituality:
“Because people are having real, and helpful, spiritual experiences in certain areas of their lives-such as worship, prayer, Bible studies, and fellowship-they mistakingly believe they are doing fine, even if their relational life and interior world is not in order. This apparent “progress” then provides a spiritual reason for not doing the hard work of maturing.”
Prayer, worship, Bible study, going to church, they are all good things that contribute to our spiritual health, but we must be careful not to let spiritual practices replace personal relationship with God.
I hadn’t let prayer replace actual relationship with God, but I had let hours in prayer become my standard for spiritual health. Scripture tells us we’ll know a tree by its fruit (Matt 7:15-20), so if I’m healthy of course I’ll spend hours in prayer right?
See how subtly the enemy can slip a lie in there? Scripture also tells us to take care of our families (1 Timothy 5:8, 14). If I spend six hours a day in prayer but neglect my children, my home, and my husband am I really glorifying God? Am I really living in spiritual health?
The pharisees were very good at keeping outward practices of spirituality – prayer, fasting, giving. Yet Jesus rebuked them harsher than anyone else. He stressed the importance of our inner world, our hearts, not just the outward practices of spiritual health (Matthew 23:26-28).
Spiritual Health in Every Season
Life is full of constant transitions from one life stage to the next. We must give ourselves grace and learn with God anew in each season what healthy spiritual rhythms look like for that specific stage, not what we used to do, not what someone else in a similar stage does, what does God tell you personally looks like healthy rhythms in this season?
Part of defining healthy rhythms that transcend life stages is learning to gauge your spiritual health based on your inner world rather than external practices. Whether I spend six hours or six minutes in prayer:
- Am I living from a place of love, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control? (Galatians 5:22-23)
- Are my thoughts set on things above and not below? (Colossians 3:2)
- Am I filled with anxiety or am I casting all of my cares on him? (1 Peter 5:7)
It has taken me years to readjust my relational rhythms with God; but now, no matter how busy my season of life may be, I check in with God throughout the day on how my inner world is doing. I talk to him about my emotions, about my reactions to the situations I encounter, about the thoughts I find running through my mind.
Many days there are very few minutes of actually getting to sit with him and instead I just have a running dialogue throughout the day. Other days there is an hour or so I really can make sacred as time to soak in his presence.
The difference is that the actual time spent solely in prayer and other external practices is no longer my benchmark of a healthy spiritual life. Instead I gauge my spiritual health on the internal realities of my intimacy with God and how the fruits of his Spirit flow from me (1 Corinthians 13).
Prayers for Spiritual Health
Make these prayers part of the meditation of your heart, the open-ended conversations you have with God. As you wake, as you go throughout your day, as you lay down at night, keep your mind fixed on him and what health looks like in that moment.
- God, thank you for this day and for the season of life I am in now with all its joys and challenges. Search my heart today, show me any place that isn’t aligned with your heart, and may I be quick to respond to your correction (Psalm 139:23-24).
- Holy Spirit, thank you for interceding on my behalf (Romans 8:26-27). Fill me afresh today so that my life spreads love and peace wherever I go. Increase the harvest of your good fruit in my life and pluck any fruit that’s not from you (Galatians 5:22-23).
- Jesus, I love you. You alone are worthy of all of my praise. Give me your perspective on everything I encounter today. Help me see every person and situation as you do. I submit every thought that comes across my mind to your authority (2 Corinthians 10:5).