7 Ways to Improve Your Prayer Life

It happens to the best of us.  We are in love with God, but the busy schedules we set for ourselves intrude.  The next thing we know, it has been weeks since we sat down to pray.  Time has the ability to slip away from us.  Here are seven ways to improve your prayer life over the next week.

Day 1

tablet, technology

Put down the technology.  I am a techno-junkie to end all techno-junkies.  I usually have my iPhone, iPad, and laptop all within arm’s reach at any given moment.  I work online, socialize online, shop online, and learn online.  And there are positives to that.  But it also means I’m dividing my time and attention 10 different ways at once.  And recently, it has become clear that multi-tasking does not help us at all.  This means putting aside the tablet, and sitting at the table of our Father in Heaven, if we really want to improve our prayer life.  Challenge yourself on day 1 to find a quiet place far from any technology to spend a little time praying.  At first, your information addicted brain may get a little bored, but let the quiet was over your soul.  And let God speak right to your heart.

Day 2

TIME

Get rid of the clock.  We live by our clocks and watches.  Every second of every day seems, sometimes, to be scheduled.  And having your time organized and allotted can be good.  But, not for your prayer life.  Rather than sitting through your prayer time glancing at your watch every 5 seconds, go in with mindset that you’ll stay without a thought to time.  Move your focus from how long this will take, to how much God you really want.

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A History of Lent & Why It Still Matters

Yesterday was Mardi Gras, for those of you that are not in the know.  Fat Tuesday.  Which means today is Ash Wednesday.  For some, this is a given.  But I grew up in a world where the liturgical calendar did not play into church life.  I still go to a church like that.  But that doesn’t mean that I don’t see the point in some of these traditions.

Maybe you were like me, the first time my college friends walked around with ash on their foreheads.  What is Lent?  Why should I care?

By U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Brian May [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Brian May [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A Brief History of Lent

Lent, or Lenten, actually simply means “spring” in the original Anglo-Saxon from which the term began.  It is also one of the oldest traditions in the Church.  It began shortly after the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D., the same council that established that Jesus was, indeed, co-equal with God.  This council also separated out the holiday of Easter and also established the first concept of a 40 day fast prior to Easter.  Though not many details exist as to the purpose of the fast, or whether it was meant for everyone, soon the entire Church was observing the fast as a part of their annual calendar.

There was also an absence of any guidelines.  This meant Eastern Christians only observed it on weekdays whereas the Western Christians observed on Saturdays but also had one week less of Lent.  Soon, Lent was moved from starting on a Sunday to a Wednesday, hence the observance of Ash Wednesday.  After the 7th century, Gregory the Great, a leading authority in the church, moved it and also began marking the foreheads of repentant Christians with the ash cross as a sign of their repentance.

By the Providence Lithograph Company [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By the Providence Lithograph Company [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

So What?

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.  Matthew 4:1-2 NIV

Have you ever been hungry?  Days-without-food-ravenous hungry?  Where your stomach feels like a sinking pit of disgruntled pain.  Spiritually, I think we have all been there.  So desperate for something to fill us that we don’t really care what it is.  And so, we gladly take whatever can stop the emptiness, even if it doesn’t satisfy.  And yet, the Holy Spirit led Jesus into just such a circumstance to be tested.  To show that the Son of God could indeed be the perfect and spotless Lamb.  That He could fulfill His mission on earth.  And it made Him hungry, empty.

I am so guilty of satisfying the hunger with whatever junk is lying around.  Trash and garbage pile up until my own soul reeks.  But, Jesus didn’t do this.  He filled His hunger with the word, and the word, a flashing sword, cut the enemy down to size.

We still need Lent in the church today.  This is about so much more than what you eat or don’t, what you do, what services you attend.  Look past all of that and it comes down to repentance.  Cleansing.  Sweeping clean all the junk that has accumulated in the corners of our souls until it looks like a hoarder lives there.

Forty days of preparation.  Of tilling the hardened soil of our hearts and planting His word over and over and over until it takes root.  Maybe this is why Lent actually means Spring.  Because it is meant to be a time when we can see His word start to bud.  See the dead come to life.

For I will pour water on the thirsty land,
and streams on the dry ground;
I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring,
and my blessing on your descendants.  Isaiah 44: 3-4 NIV

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I don’t mean a religious, going-through-the-motions act to attempt to please God.  If that’s all it is, go on and gorge yourself.  I mean a real, deep uncovering of the hidden places.  A laying bare and uncovering the dark so that we can shine as bright as the One we were meant to reflect.  A dirty mirror casts no light.

So, join me.  Join me in this time of preparation and repentance.  I am not necessarily giving up something and grasping onto the One thing I need.  Time with Jesus, deep, personal, and real.  Are you ready?

The Nuts & Bolts of Your Health

If macro-nutrients are the bricks, cinder blocks, and studs of our health, then micro-nutrients are the screws and nails, the glue and mortar that holds it all together.  They are not needed in necessarily the same quantity as macro-nutrients, but they are still vital to our ability to function.

What are micro-nutrients?

Have you ever looked at a food label (I believe everyone should be reading their food labels, but that’s another issue) and there are some items on there that seem a bit strange?  Copper.  Selenium.  Magnesium.  There are a lot of metals, minerals, and vitamins that can appear on a food label, and it really makes you wonder what we need it for?

Now, I am not going to go over every single micro-nutrient in detail, but I will talk about some categories of micro-nutrients and why they are important.

Vitamins

If anyone has seen I Love Lucy, you’ll remember the Vitameatavegamin that she tries to advertise.  It is one of the ones that always has me laughing.  It is the idea that something as simple as a spoonful of one thing or a pill can make all your health problems go away.  In fact, most of us grew up with some sort of vitamins that we usually took with our breakfast (Mine was Flintstones for the longest time).  The term vitamin has become synonymous with a small tablet to give you the extras that your body needs because they aren’t found in the food you are eating.  But vitamins are more than that.  If you do not have vitamins in your diet, you will start to have health issues due to a deficiency.

The most common deficiency 100 years ago was scurvy.  Sailors were out at see for months at a time, and their diet did not have vitamin C at all, which is gotten from fresh meat, organ meat, and some fruits and vegetables.  Scurvy can be debilitating, and if left untreated, can result in death.  Finally, it was discovered that citrus fruit could help.  Of course, today’s modern sailor would simply be given a Vitamin C supplement to take.

While, with a busy schedule and food that can be nutrient deficient before it ever gets to your plate, it is important to realize that most vitamins can be taken in a pill form, but may not be absorbed correctly or in the right amount.  Certain vitamins are only absorbed with other co-factors present, such as fat or certain trace minerals.  If possible, it is better to get your vitamins in actual whole foods.  Also, be aware of how the food was grown, as large-scale, factory farms may overtax soil, resulting in the food having less nutritional value.  I have found the local farmers market to be the prime location to get nutritious fruits and veggies without breaking the bank.

Minerals

Like vitamins, minerals are needed in small quantities.  But, their ability to help our bodies function can not be overstated. Minerals like iron, potassium, and magnesium are common in our vocabulary because they are prevalent on the backs of food packaging.  We are also generally aware of issues like anemia that come from a lack of iron.  The most important point to realize?Minerals cannot be created by any living organism.  They exist in soil or as a salt (from the soil).  Plants pull the minerals from the soil.  Then we either eat the plants or eat the animals that ate the plants.  That is the major way we get minerals in our diet.  As the larger farms continue to overwork soil to produce quantity instead of quality foods, the minerals in the soil get less and less.  That is a big reason why a lot of our foods, from milk to bread to salt, have been fortified with minerals.  The normal process of getting these important elements into our bodies just isn’t cutting it.

One way that I have found to add minerals to my diet is to get a trace mineral solution to add to my water.  It generally isn’t too overpowering if you increase the amount slowly.  I recommend Liqumins ConcenTrace Trace Mineral Drops* for this.  While it does supplement your diet, I feel better about how it is processed as well as how it is absorbed in your body.

To sum up, these little nuts and bolts hold everything together, in terms of nutrition.  If you are missing these vitamins and minerals, it can have serious, life-threatening consequences.  The Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University has done lots of research on micro-nutrients.  Be aware that their material can get a bit heavy, but it is well worth a quick scan.  They also list the individual vitamins and minerals, what each one does, and what a deficiency can cause.  Friday, I will post how to put all this information to use with some recipes and apps that can help you on the path to better nutrition.

Have any questions?  Feel free to leave a comment below.

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