The Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation recommends aerobic exercise to improve cardiovascular health. That kind of exercise also improves energy levels, alertness, helps maintain a healthy weight, or lose weight if necessary, and avoid diabetes. Aerobic exercise can be any physical activity that raises your heart rate and is sustained for some time. Heart and Stroke recommends simple, low impact exercises, beginning with 15 minute sessions three days a week and working up to 30 minute sessions at least five days a week.
Is there a spiritual exercise that would do the same for our spiritual vitality? I wonder what kind of pictures pop into your mind in response to a question like that. More intense prayer and praise? I don’t know how to describe that, or just what it would do. Let’s start with something very basic.
The best way to increase our spiritual vitality is to get to know God better. After all, He is the source of spiritual life. I know of no better way to become better acquainted with God than to read His Word. Well, we do that already, don’t we? We also do some walking and other physical activity every day, too, but if we want to feel better we need to do more.
The Bible was not meant to be chopped up into little pieces and consumed one little bit at a time. That being said, most of us do read shorter passages during our normal devotional periods. But if we are looking for greater spiritual fitness, we must make a more intense effort to get the whole picture.
So here is the plan. Choose one book of the Bible and read it through in one setting. Don’t stop to analyse, just read it from beginning to end and let it sink in, a little of it anyway. Wait two days and then read it again. This time try to understand more of the big picture and how each part leads into the next. Wait two days again, then read it once more, out loud this time. Some things pop out when you read aloud that you hadn’t noticed before.
Not all books of the Bible can be read this way, but the New Testament epistles were intended to be read in churches from beginning to end. The Minor Prophets and many other shorter books should be read this way. The book of Job was probably originally told by shepherds around their campfires in the evening.
Later on, you may want to look at Bible dictionaries or commentaries, but forget them for now. Imagine you are back in the time the epistle or book was written and try to hear the message the divinely-inspired writer wanted you to hear.
If we only read short passages of the Bible, constantly skipping from one book of the Bible to another, we are like a person who looks at five pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and thinks he knows the whole picture. That is when the Bible seems obscure, mysterious, and not all that interesting. When we look at the whole picture we see details and aspects that we never knew were there. The Artist is speaking to us and we are revitalized.