About three thousand years ago, a wise man named Agur said, “There are three things which are too wonderful for me, yes, four which I do not understand.”
Really? I used to think. Only four? Of course, he did pick four good ones.1
I recently considered some of the ways I benefit from prayer. I was especially reflecting on various aspects of stability and clarity—inner poise and grace—that prayer adds to my life. In keeping with Agur’s group of four, here are my top four gains.
Stress is no fun. Whether as a student cramming before an important exam, a parent juggling the demands of work and family, a relative or close friend of someone facing a serious health problem, a professional struggling to stay current, or one of millions trying to stay on their feet in a shaky economy, everyone has experienced the debilitating effects of stress.
When my husband went on an extended business trip for nearly three months, I found out what challenges single parents face. It was a big adjustment to have to keep up with the house and care for the children on my own, in addition to my job. Other circumstances also took a toll on my emotions, and I found it increasingly difficult to cope. Each day’s outlook seemed bleaker than the last. The struggle exhausted me physically and mentally. Then came the last straw.
Peace is a “fruit of the Spirit,”1 one of the special blessings the Bible promises to those who strive to live close to God. The Hebrew word translated “peace” in most English versions of the Old Testament denoted completeness, soundness, and overall well-being. The New Testament connotation is inner tranquility—a combination of hope, trust, and quiet of mind and soul.2 In this day and age, such peace can be elusive.
There’s no magic formula for attaining inner peace, but there are certain things we can do to nurture it.
“The heavens declare the glory of God,” the Psalmist wrote. “The skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.”1 The Creator speaks through His creation.
You can hear Him too, if you’ll stop what you’re doing and listen.
Our spiritual well-being is important to our overall well-being. When our spirits are calm and at peace, our bodies benefit.
The Bible tells us, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”1 Inspirational music, reading, and praying out loud can all help us do that, but there should also be times when we commune with the Lord in silence. He says, “Be still, and know that I am God.”2
The goal of this spiritual exercise is to bring peace to your spirit by taking 10 or 15 minutes for silent reflection.
This exercise may seem more practical than spiritual, but it is a key to spiritual health and growth.
If there is a quiet, clutter-free space in your home to which you can retreat for moments of prayer or quiet reflection, or if you live in a moderate climate where you can sit outside in the quiet comfort of nature, you have a head start. The average home today is a hub of activity and noise, so finding a spot to spend a few peaceful minutes is a major challenge. Many people simply resign themselves to that situation, but it takes a toll on their spirit. In such an atmosphere it is easy to develop a dullness to the voice of God, because all that noise and confusion drowns Him out. But if you can escape to a quiet, peaceful setting on a regular basis and you use that time to connect with God, you will find your spiritual senses becoming sharper.
No gift could fill your heart with all the special things you deserve, so this Christmas I offer a prayer instead, asking the One who knows your every need to give you His very best.
First I pray for your happiness. Not the fleeting kind that comes from happenings or new acquisitions, but deep abiding happiness that will be there even when nothing special is going on.
The story is told of an elderly woman whose memory was starting to fail her. Over the years she had read and studied the Bible so much that she knew many passages by heart. One of her favorites was from Paul’s second letter to Timothy, which included the verse, “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him.”1 As long as she held onto Jesus, He would not fail her.
As time went by, she found that she could no longer remember the whole verse—only the phrase “what I have committed to Him,” which she quietly repeated to herself.
“Let not your heartbe troubled,” Jesus tells us. “You believe in God, believe also in Me.”1 “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”2
He wants to be with you always, through every disappointment and every hardship. He wants to protect you from harm. Even when there is trouble on every side, you won’t need to worry or fear.