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The Importance of Prayer and Bible Study

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The Importance of Prayer and Bible Study

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Why is it absolutely imperative that we study the Bible and pray? What does it accomplish for a Christian? How do we take prayer and Bible study and convert it into spiritual strength and character?

One way that we can understand how the conversion process works is to look at how our physical bodies use food and convert it into energy. Both physically and spiritually we need to be recharged and energized! Physically, our bodies can get into a run-down condition. We need proper food and rest to build our bodies back up. Spiritually, we need to be recharged by the Spirit of God so that we might have the power to overcome.

Baby Food

We all start out as babes in Christ (Matthew18:1-6). We are not to remain children, but are to mature spiritually (Hebrews 5:12-14). A baby's diet initially consists of milk from its mother. The first fluid that a nursing baby receives from its mother is called colostrum. This fluid is rich in protein and prepares the baby's body to receive milk, by coating the stomach. It also helps to prevent susceptibility to certain diseases.

When God initially calls us to understand His way of life, the Spirit of God prepares our minds to receive spiritual food. God's Spirit also helps us to fight off spiritually wrong thoughts and ideas. God doesn't want us to stay on milk forever. He wants to us grow up and to go on to perfection (Ephesians 4:13-15; Hebrews 6:1).

The Analogy of Food

Why do we eat food? What is the purpose of eating? We all like to eat. We realize that food gives us strength and energy. We know that we must sustain our physical life or we die. Romans 12:2 explains that we must spiritually renew our minds. Just as the physical body must be renewed in power and strength, so must our spiritual batteries be recharged. We are to eat, or imbibe, the Word of God. It becomes a part of us. Likewise, when we eat food it becomes a part of the very cells of our bodies (John 6: 48-51, 63). Ephesians 3:16 talks about a Christian being "strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man," and verse 20 also talks about "power that works in us." The Spirit of God imparts spiritual power to us. That Spirit is renewed in us through prayer and Bible study. Children eat a lot when they are going through growth periods. They seem to be an appetite with skin wrapped around it! Do we stop eating spiritually after we have been in the church for awhile? Our spiritual development depends upon constantly eating of God's Word.

How often do most of us eat? We generally eat two or three times a day. We seldom forget to eat because our bodies constantly remind us that we are hungry and have need of food. Notice 2 Corinthians 4:16: "Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day." The physical is a type of the spiritual. The new man must be renewed on a daily basis. Colossians 3:9-10 also demonstrates that the new man is to be renewed in knowledge. The knowledge and wisdom of God come from the Spirit of God and the holy Scriptures.

In order for food to be properly assimilated into the body it should be digested properly. We chew our food in the mouth to help break it down. Consequently, the acids in the stomach are able to further break down the food. Food has to be digested to be properly used by the body. There is a spiritual analogy to this also. When we study the Scriptures, we need to meditate on what we study. Spiritually speaking, we chew on it, or think about it. We break the Word of God down into understandable parts and apply it to our lives.

Spiritual Motivation

Food in the body is converted into energy and strength. It repairs the cells, fuels the body, and imparts the nutrients needed to sustain life. This also compares to the working of God's Spirit. Galatians 5:22 shows that God's Spirit imparts fruit. One of the fruits that it imparts to us is faith.

What is the power that motivates the true servants of God to obey, to overcome, to grow in grace and knowledge? It is faith! Hebrews 11 demonstrates that faith is what motivated the men and women of old to obey God. Obedience is faith transformed into action—transformed into another form. James 2:14-20 explains that faith must be used—that "faith without work is dead." The Spirit is depleted, or used up, through service,works and spiritual overcoming. Hard physical labor innervates us physically. After extensive athletic exertion we become tired. We eat to renew our strength. The spiritual power that God gives us is His Spirit (Acts 1:8).

Jesus Christ through good works used up the power of God. As Luke 6:19 says: "For power went out from Him and healed them all." On another occasion Jesus healed a woman who had a flow of blood for 12 years (Mark 5:25-30). Verse 30 states that power had gone out of Jesus to perform this miracle. When we obey God or serve others we use us a certain amount of the spiritual power that God gives us. It has to be renewed. There is nothing constant about a spiritual mind in a physical body.

Herbert Armstrong stated in the past that the Spirit of God is like water that flows out of a Christian in good works. We must be constantly connected to the source of that water, or God's Spirit.

Use The Spirit

Different work-related jobs expend different amounts of energy. A person who has a desk job does not burn as many calories as someone who does hard manual labor. Christ explained to His disciples that different problems require being close to God. The disciples had cast out demons through the Spirit of God. Yet we have an example in Matthew 17:14-21 where they were not able to cast out a violent demon. Why were they not able? Unbelief or lack of faith! Christ went on to explain in verse 21 that "this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting." The obvious implication was that Christ had been praying and fasting and the disciples had not. Yet Christ did not indicate that prayer and fasting was necessary for every demon that is cast out—only certain types of demons. None of us know when we will be confronted with a major test that will require a great deal of faith on our part. The first epistle of Peter 1:6-7 shows that our faith will be tried to see how strong we are. We must be close to God at all times and not allow the self to coast spiritually and rest on past laurels or accomplishments. In a trial our faith is translated into patience.

Physically speaking you cannot always tell how much endurance and strength a person has by looking at him. There is a spiritual parallel. We all know members that we thought were spiritually strong and rooted firmly in the truth of God. Yet when a major trial confronted the church in the mid-nineties many of them did not pass. Others that you may have thought did not have spiritual depth did remain faithful. Our character and strength are measured by how we react in a trial.

Proper Spiritual Diet

We have all heard the expression "you are what you eat." When it comes to our spiritual diet, what do we eat? Lets take a look at four different spiritual diets.

Starvation—If you stop eating food and drinking liquids, you will starve to death. The parallel is a lack of prayer and Bible study. Death does not occur immediately on a starvation diet, but if not corrected it will invariable lead to death. The same is true if we seldom study or pray.

Unbalanced diet—An unbalanced diet can lead to poor health and many physical difficulties. Spiritually, an unbalanced diet would be where we tend to study only one topic in the Bible—such as prophecy or history. The Bible gives us a balanced diet of spiritual food—including Christian living, prophecy, history, doctrine, etc. We may have a favorite section of the Bible that we like to study, but don't neglect the whole Bible (Matthew 4:4).

Food fanatics—We have all encountered people who become extreme in their eating habits. I remember one gentleman that I encountered who basically just ate bananas. Spiritually, this would be a person who only studies one point of Scripture. This becomes his spiritual "baby."

Balanced diet—Our physical diet should consist of a proper balance of foods from all the different food groups—fruits, vegetables, grains, meats, etc. A balanced spiritual diet would be to study the Bible in proper proportions. Sometimes we study according to our spiritual needs. Those needs will vary from time to time.

What happens when you eat a poor diet? Your resistance is low. As a result you could get a cold, flu, or some disease. When you're sick you don't want to eat, and you become weaker. When our spiritual resistance is low, almost any trial or test could throw us. Paul admonishes us in Galatians 6:10: "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might." The more we rely upon God and the closer we are to Him the more God's strength is made perfect in us (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). We receive the power of God when we totally rely upon Him.

Very seldom do we forget to eat. We would not dream of only eating once a week. Yet this is what we do spiritually if the only time we study and pray is on the Sabbath. Every time we sit down to eat it should be a reminder that we need to eat spiritually. We must pray and study regularly for spiritual strength.