Living the spiritual life
The Rev. Kathy Brumbaugh, Special Writer
Background text: Psalm 121
Devotional text: Romans 8:9-11
What does it mean to live the spiritual life? Can anyone do it, or is it something set aside for special people of God?
The answer is simple, my friends, as simple as saying yes to God and believing in Jesus Christ as Savior.
The words of scripture are full of the spiritual life as lived by regular men and women. Jesus didn’t choose the wealthy, the popular or the great intellectuals of his time to walk with him as his disciples. He chose simple fishermen, regular people of the world, tax collectors, even doubters.
Today, believers in Christ come from all walks of life, all cultures and races, various backgrounds, from rich to poor.
So what does it mean to live the spiritual life? I like the quote by British theologian Geoffrey Wainwright (who died March 17, 2020), when he defined the life of spirituality as “a combination of living and prayer.” It is in living the believer’s new life through Christ, coupled with daily prayer, that we find our spiritual walk with the Lord.
The Book of Romans, written by the Apostle Paul, served as the introduction of himself to the Roman believers. Following the introductory words found in chapter 1, Paul continued in the following chapters to write about what it meant to follow Jesus.
It is in chapter 8, verses 15-16, that we find the Holy Spirit is within us, enabling us to call our God “Abba,” the Aramaic word for Father. It is through our new life in following Christ that we realize our place in God’s family, as his children and heirs.
The Gospel writers regularly spoke of Jesus going off by himself to pray to God. In these ways, Jesus taught them — and us — that prayer is essential and real conversations with God. We don’t need fancy words to get God’s attention. Prayer is our true conversation as real people hiding nothing of ourselves from God, making our requests known with thanksgiving, because we know in our hearts that the Lord is always faithful and trustworthy to us.
In the Gospel of John, chapter 17, we find Jesus praying for his disciples, as well as for all future believers. These prayers show us his petitions to God for our guidance and protection. Jesus left us with a legacy of prayer. When we read his prayers in this chapter, we are reminded of the psalmists and the many ways they prayed and trusted in the Lord.
Just as in the time of Jesus, when the people asked the Lord to teach them to pray, we find that even today people are uncertain of how to pray to God. Are there certain words of invocation we need to use so God will hear us? Do we need to present ourselves to God in a certain way, or does God expect us to use holy words to receive his attention?
Not at all.
When I speak to people about prayer life, I take them to the Book of Psalms. A psalm is defined as a sacred poem or song, often used in worship. However, I would add that the psalms are a book of prayers reaching out to God in both celebration and supplication.
The Psalms teach us how to give thanks and praise to God. They also show us God’s faithfulness in times of trouble. They express the same feelings we have today, as we cry out to God to hear us in our need. Reading the Psalms shows us real prayer, from real people, holding nothing back.
In reading Psalm 121, we see the writer “lifting my (his) eyes to the hills … for help that comes from the Lord.” He goes on to describe what the Lord has done for him in his life: not allowing his foot to slip, watching over him even in sleep, keeping him from harm and ever watching to guide and protect him through all his life.
It is believed these words were written by King Hezekiah, one of the true men of God who ruled over Jerusalem. These words could have easily been the words of King David, who rose from the fields as a shepherd boy to be king.
The truly spiritual men and women of the earth are always found lifting their eyes to God and God’s creation, seeking his presence and guidance. Their trust in the Lord was not empty words, but real, humble and open, as they knew from whom they could place their faith and trust.
David, the author of Psalm 32, re-echoes the trust that comes from those who look to the Lord and pray to the Lord for deliverance. In this Psalm, he wrote about the Lord who forgives our sins. It is the Lord our God who truly knows us, and who we come to in our own truth, hiding nothing from him.
The psalmist wrote about being forgiven of his sin when he confessed to God. These words were followed by God’s protection and teaching, the teaching in righteousness, the teaching one follows when they trust wholeheartedly in God.
Continuing with the Psalms, we find that many of them can be used as beginnings to our own prayers as we reach out to God in our own times of need: Psalm 5 finds David praying to God to hear his voice as he makes his requests known to God; in Psalm 16, David reaches out to God for safety; in Psalm 28, David calls the Lord his Rock, the One who never turns a deaf ear to him; in Psalm 23, we find God is with us even in the darkest valleys, offering us comfort; and in Psalm 73, we find God with us as we reach out our hands to him.
As we go into the New Testament, we see how many of the Psalms come together in Jesus Christ. We find belief in Christ leading us into salvation and deliverance from our sin. We find that looking to God for our help and protection can be found today in the Christ who saves.
Whether we are rejoicing in good news or crying out to the Father for help, our prayer lives offer to us the reality of who God is in our lives today. Paul encouraged believers to pray at all times.
For me, I understand his words to mean I can speak to God at any time and anywhere. I know that as God is truly with me, I can count on him hearing my petitions, pleas, cries and requests, as well as my joyous heart-felt celebrations for the wonderful things he does in my life and in the lives of others.
This is our lives as Christians. Walking with God. Reading the word of God. Speaking to God in a conversation known as prayer.