We’re excited to announce the release of Life, Hope & Truth’s newest resource—a book designed to help Christians deepen their relationship with God.
Part of our mission at Life, Hope & Truth is to provide others with the tools and resources they need to develop a deep, meaningful relationship with God. As we strive to “be imitators of God as dear children” (Ephesians 5:1)—to live pure lives while we prepare for the return of Jesus Christ—we want to make it easier for others to do the same.
Over the decades, we’ve found that God provides each of us with a set of spiritual tools designed to help us grow as Christians. These tools are critical in our journey to become more like our Father in heaven—and, in fact, God designed them to function as core components of our Christianity.
We decided to write a booklet about them—prayer, Bible study, meditation, fasting and fellowship—the five primary tools all Christians can use to strengthen their relationship with God.
Unfortunately, we hit a snag.
There was too much to say.
What does it mean to pray, “Your Kingdom come”? Why do we need to pray when God already knows what we need? What can we learn from the prayers recorded in the Bible?
How can we piece all the different stories of the Bible together into a clear timeline? What’s the best way to make use of the various Bible study resources out there? Why does it matter what translation we read?
How does meditation really work? What should we be trying to accomplish?
Does fasting have to last precisely 24 hours? What is the value of a fast, exactly? How can our attempts to fast backfire on us?
How does our fellowship with other Church members impact our fellowship with God? What practical steps can we take to ensure better fellowship?
The list goes on. A booklet wasn’t going to cut it. There were too many questions that needed answers, and not enough space to answer them.
So we gave up on the booklet . . .
And wrote a book instead. It’s called Five Tools for Spiritual Growth: How to Develop a Deeper Relationship With God.
I’m excited to tell you more about it—but first, let’s talk about tools.
What does it take to use a tool?
The first time I used a hammer, I held it with my hand all the way up the handle.
That’s a terrible way to hold a hammer. I may as well have been using a rock. It took more time, more strength and more energy to awkwardly bludgeon every nail into the wood.
But I wasn’t interested in using the hammer efficiently. I was interested in not crushing my fingers with an errant swing. The weight of the hammer in my hand was unfamiliar. I didn’t trust myself to land each blow with any kind of accuracy, and I knew I was perpetually one bad swing away from having a throbbing red thumb and howling and leaping around as if I belonged in a Tom and Jerry cartoon.
If you want to get the most out of a hammer—or at least make it marginally more effective than a large rock—then you need to understand how a hammer is designed to work. Holding the bottom of the handle (instead of the top), swinging with a wide arc (instead of little bitty taps) and bending at your elbow (instead of your wrist) are all important steps to maximize the force behind each blow.
Of course, just knowing about a hammer doesn’t automatically make you good at swinging a hammer. You can know all about hammers—you can know their history, you can know exactly how they’re made and understand all the design philosophies involved, you can even know the most popular brands and what people love about them—but if you’ve never personally picked up a hammer yourself and tried to hit a nail with it, then that first swing will still be a learning experience.
That’s true for more than just hammers. Using any tool effectively requires two things—knowledge and practice. You have to understand how the tool was intended to be used, and then you have to get used to using it.
Practice without knowledge means you might never use a tool to its full potential—or worse, you might learn to use it in a way that makes things harder than they need to be. Knowledge without practice means never developing any skill with the tool—and more to the point, never accomplishing anything with it.
Neither aspect is enough on its own.
The goal of the spiritual tools book
When it comes to the five primary tools God gives us, these spiritual tools have a lot in common with physical tools. They can help us accomplish things we’re unable to do on our own—but using them well requires both knowledge and practice.
It’s not enough to learn about these tools but never use them—and it’s also possible to use these tools in unhelpful and inefficient ways if we don’t first make an effort to learn about them.
And that’s why we wrote our book. We hope Five Tools for Spiritual Growth will serve as a helpful reference for Christians everywhere as they seek to better understand—and better master—the incredible tools God has given us.
It’s not meant to be read through in one sitting, internalized and then set aside. It’s not even necessarily meant to be read through in order. This is a book you can come back to over and over again to clarify questions or to dig deeper into the individual tools.
If you want to understand why Bible study matters in the first place—we talk about that. If you want advice on different approaches to Bible study—we talk about that. If you want to understand how biblical authors used chiasmus to introduce an extra layer of emphasis to their writings—we talk about that too.
The book doesn’t tackle every question, of course—even a book has its limitations! But it tries to tackle some of the bigger ones while offering helpful insights along the way.
We’ve divided the book into five main parts—one for each tool—and organized each part into chapters and sections that will help you find what you’re looking for as quickly as possible.
For the rest of this article, let’s take a closer look at these five tools and explore how the book will help you put each of them to use.
Part I: Prayer
Prayer is the act of speaking to God. It’s a fundamental part of our relationship with Him—after all, a relationship without communication is hardly a relationship at all. But prayer can also feel like a mysterious ritual, with fuzzy rules and an unclear purpose.
Part I of Five Tools for Spiritual Growth is all about demystifying prayer. We start by examining each individual element of the model prayer Jesus Christ gave His disciples, looking closely to see what insights we can extract from the phrases He used.
In general, these elements teach us how to speak with God about three important areas of life—our relationship with Him as our Father in heaven, His overall plan for the human race and how our own personal needs and desires fit into it all.
We also cover a litany of prayer FAQs—everything from “How long should my prayers be?” to “What if God isn’t answering my prayer?”—before diving into specific, noteworthy examples of prayer in the Bible. By examining how men and women of God have prayed to their Creator in a variety of different situations, we can learn important lessons to apply to our own prayer life.
Part II: Bible study
Bible study is the other half of our conversation with God. Because “all Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Timothy 3:16, English Standard Version), Bible study is the powerful tool that allows us to hear the words God has for us. Combined with prayer, Bible study enables vital two-way communication with God.
But Bible study can get complicated—and confusing. With 66 books in the Bible, written by a multitude of different authors in three different original languages across hundreds of years of human history, it’s hard to know where to start.
Part II of Five Tools for Spiritual Growth aims to provide you with a solid overview of what the Bible is, how it came to be, what historical eras it discusses, the different writing styles its authors employed, why translations matter, different approaches you can take to planning out your own personal studies and how to make use of a variety of other Bible-related resources.
The more time we take to understand the Bible as the incredible God-breathed book that it is, the deeper and richer our conversations with God will become.
Part III: Meditation
Different cultures and religions offer conflicting definitions of the practice, but godly meditation, as defined in the Bible, serves a key function in the life of a Christian. Part III of Five Tools for Spiritual Growth is about understanding what godly meditation looks like and how it strengthens our connection with God.
Part III also includes an extensive list of meditation topics for the moments when you’re not sure where to focus your attention. You’ll find references to important Bible lists, the names and titles of God and even the words used to describe the different aspects of God’s law.
Part IV: Fasting
Fasting appears repeatedly in the Bible, but it’s not always clear what the biblical process of fasting looked like—or even what the people involved hoped to accomplish. Part IV of Five Tools for Spiritual Growth looks at how fasting was used by God’s people in the Bible and discusses how you can put this tool to use in your own life while addressing another collection of FAQs.
In addition to some noteworthy examples of positive fasts in the Bible, this part of the book also explores important lessons from improper fasts—the kind of fasting God made a point to criticize and even condemn. These passages give us valuable insight into what our own fasts should (and shouldn’t) look like.
Part V: Fellowship
Perhaps the easiest of the five tools to overlook or undervalue, fellowship is about more than passing the time with other Christians. God designed fellowship to connect the Church in a powerful way, creating opportunities for growth that simply could not exist on an individual level.
Because we’re all imperfect human beings, fellowship naturally comes with the possibility of a profound sense of connection—and a profound sense of rejection.
In addition to exploring how God designed fellowship to work, Part V of Five Tools for Spiritual Growth spends time examining the steps we can take to help make fellowship a rewarding experience for everyone involved.
This part includes seven keys to godly fellowship, tips for relating to people who come from different backgrounds and even practical tips for navigating conversations with our brethren.
Learning to imitate our Father in heaven
Being called to imitate God is an intimidating task—but it’s an exciting one too.
God calls us His children. He calls Himself our Father. Just as children naturally pick up on the mannerisms, habits and behaviors of their parents, so we can come to be more like our Heavenly Father. And, indeed, God lovingly invites us to imitate Him.
Like those of children, our imitations of our Father will be imperfect. Jesus called us to “be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect”—but neither God the Father or Jesus Christ expect us to be perfect right now, in this moment. It’s a process—and the more time we spend with God—in prayer, in Bible study, in meditation, in fasting and even in fellowship—the more perfect those imitations will become.
In time, they’ll become so ingrained in our character, we’ll find ourselves imitating God without even thinking about it.
Our great God is growing a family, and He wants you to be part of it. He’s given you the tools you need for your journey there. It’s our sincere hope that this book will help you to make the most of them on the way.
To get access to Five Tools for Spiritual Growth as soon as it launches, visit lifehopeandtruth.com/spiritual-tools and sign up for notifications.