Biblical Keys to Spiritual Growth: The Bible and Prayer
The way of spirituality: forsaking 'self'; embracing Christ’s example and instruction
How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.
We have been exploring Christian spiritual growth and have noted that it begins with a recognition that we are not spiritually sound. We need a Savior, and must turn away from natural confidence in self-improvement to believe, trust and rely on Jesus Christ, as He is revealed in the Bible. Pursuing spiritual growth is a matter of continuing to acknowledge this dependence, and seeking God's own help to increasingly draw near to Jesus in character and intimacy.
Our empowered will under His direction
Spiritual growth, then, requires both God’s guidance and the believer’s gospel-driven efforts. For this reason, Christians turn to Scripture to discern patterns that promote maturing in their faith. The Bible directs Christians in the pursuit of spiritual transformation. For individual practice, the most important things one can do are read Scripture and pray. Combining the two, one might find it helpful to read the Bible prayerfully as Angelican evangelist George Whitfield discussed:
"I began to read the Holy Scriptures upon my knees, laying aside all other books, and praying over, if possible every line and word. This proved meat indeed, and drink to my soul. I daily received fresh life, light, and power from above. I found it profitable for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, every way sufficient to make the man of God perfect, thoroughly furnished unto every good word and work."
God’s Word: with it, we’re thoroughly equipped
If one accepts the Bible as God’s authoritative decree for all of life, there is much that helps direct spiritual progress. Several recent books have identified dozens of beneficial practices; however, it seems wise to begin with engagement in Bible-prescribed activities. As Jesus himself said, “[God’s] word is truth.” (John 17:17) The Bible uses several metaphors to describe its function in our spiritual growth: it is the water by which we are washed, (Ephesians 5:26) the weapon with which we fight, (Ephesians 6:17), the tool kit with which we’re equipped, (2 Timothy 3:15), and the milk by which we grow. (1 Peter 2:2) These images underscore the Bible’s key role in helping us mature in the faith.
There are several ways that the Bible offers guidance as to how to grow spiritually. First, the Bible reveals our sinfulness. The Bible is like a mirror in which we see ourselves as we truly are. (James 1:23) Whenever we read and apply God’s Word, our thoughts and intentions are laid bare before us. Pastor and author Paul Tripp writes, “The Bible by its very nature is heart-revealing. For that reason, Scripture must be our central tool in personal growth.” As one prayerfully reads the Bible, sin is revealed, and the Spirit convicts us, comforts us, and leads us to thankfulness for the good news of Jesus.
God’s Word and prayer: a two-way conversation
For this reason, the Bible also encourages Christians to pray without ceasing. (1 Thessalonians 5:17) In other words, the Bible calls for a continuous attitude of prayerfulness and personal fellowship with God. Christians are to live their lives conscious of the fact that they are in the presence of God all day, every day. This type of prayer life requires that a Christian devote himself to prayer.
Prayer relates to Bible-reading in that, as Graeme Goldsworthy has said, “Prayer is our response to God as he speaks to us.” This pattern of prayer—of God speaking and us responding—is found throughout the Bible. When you read Scripture, you are reading God’s words to the church and to you. Scripture is an ongoing conversation between God and his people; we join in that conversation through prayer.
This takes us back to the good news of Jesus Christ. Our greatest problem in any situation is sin. Our greatest needs in any situation are a pure heart and God-honoring conduct. And as 1 John 5:14 confirms, “If we ask anything according to his will he hears us.” God’s will is that we grow spiritually to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus. So we must practice these disciplines with Jesus as the focus — pursuing intimacy with Christ.
Pray this week:
Lord Jesus, You said that if I abide in You and Your Words abide in me, I could ask and receive. Teach me that I may ask according to Your will.
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