Hands in Prayer Over a BibleNew believers are often enthusiastic and inspired as they learn how to incorporate faith into their lives. After a while, though, your practice can get stale as the simple answers that comforted you in the beginning no longer seem to be relevant or helpful. You can enliven your faith by embracing mystery, and you can start with four basic practices that you already know.

1. Scripture Reading and Study

As a believer, you probably have your favorite verses that bring you inspiration when you are feeling stuck and comfort when you are hurt. There are probably also some verses and stories in the scriptures that you would like to forget are there. For example, for many people, God doesn't come across as a loving or faithful protector in the book of Job. In this story, God may seem egotistical or even callous, dismissive of Job's suffering. The journey of faith is often marked by uncertainty and discomfort, and depending on how you respond to these experiences, they can be a catalyst for either loss or growth. As you study scripture, fight the urge to explain away passages you find troublesome. Sit with the whole text, studying both the uplifting parts and the ones that give you pause, to cultivate a deeper understanding.

2. Prayer and Meditation

It is easy to make prayer more complicated than it needs to be. Believers often get caught up in saying all the right things. You may worry that you aren't being grateful enough, or your prayers may sound more like a list of grievances than awe-filled petition. This frustration can lead to a duller prayer life that quickly deteriorates into nothing at all. When this happens, you are likely overthinking it or perhaps trying to fill necessary silences with chatter. Just like any other conversation, communing with God involves listening. A regular meditation practice can teach you how to give up control of the path your prayers take and learn to listen to what God has to offer when you take a break from speaking.

3. Fellowship and Relationships

Spirituality often comes with high ideals that human imperfection frequently is not able to reflect. Relationships with other people are often messy and full of conflict, and it can be easy to want to give up. Rather than avoiding communion altogether, lean into the relationships with people in your faith community. You learn more about grace from choosing the vulnerability inherent in human connection than from protecting yourself from potential hurt. It is also a good idea to find a spiritual director. He or she doesn't have to be someone who shares your traditions. In fact, you may learn more about yourself and your own faith if your spiritual director practices in a different way.

4. Service to Congregation and Community

Faith isn't all about introspection, and you cannot embrace your full faith if it only remains internal. For example, one of the great mysteries of Christianity is the concept of the incarnation. God becomes human and dwells among us. The church is meant to be an embodiment of this idea. Meeting together regularly can help you see other facets of the character of God that you may miss when you are praying or worshipping alone. Another good way to pursue this concept is through service to others. By feeding, clothing and otherwise helping people in your community, you are taking a hands-on approach to acting out your faith.

If you have been practicing your faith for a while, it is easy to get bogged down in the habit and lose sight of some of the mystery. You don't necessarily need new ideas to refresh your faith, though. You can embrace deeper understanding through returning to the basics you started with.

Category: Religion Spirituality

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