Spiritual strength is a bit like physical strength – if you don’t allocate time to it, it is foolish to think it will improve.
So, a key is to figure out how to allocate time consistently to develop spiritually. The classic formula for this is pray in the morning and then in the evening. First in the morning is a time pregnant with possibility, before the concerns of the day have a chance to distract or preoccupy the mind. Just before bed is particularly interesting because it can prime the mind to work on problems while asleep (but the downside is people are often tired at this point, even falling asleep if they attempt to pray). Regardless, figure out a time that might work for your schedule, and then develop it into a habit.
Allocating time is the first step. Then, you have to get results, so the question becomes how to get more rapid results – again, just as with developing physical strength. A person can set aside time for developing physical strength, but not get rapid results, and so with spiritual practice. So, you need to be experimenting, reading, trying things, and noticing what works for you – what gets results.
God is love, and prayer centered on love is highly important in Christian practice. The second aspect is conviction (or faith). (See Ask, and it shall be given you.)
This isn’t meant to be understood in an abstract way, but a concrete, experienced way. For it to matter, it has to be real.
So, pray with joy. Joy contains love, and is a kind of enthusiasm. Hence, it contains both love and cultivates conviction. By praying with joy you connect with God more fully.
A recipe for prayer is to infuse joy into prayer, and then let go, letting God do his work. This recipe will increase both love and conviction in your prayer life.
How do you infuse joy into prayer? The first step is to ask God to come into your heart and mind. Then actively see joy in whatever situation you are praying about – don’t focus on what you fear, but a joyful outcome. ‘Love casteth out fear.’ Then let go, knowing God is working to align things and guide you in your actions to bring more joy into the world.
The point of prayer with joy is to bring more joy not just into your heart (which is highly important) but into the world outside.
One process of violence is as follows.
Lie -> fear -> anger -> violence.
The lie is often something one tells to oneself – a mistaken belief about the world which, upon reflection, we can see isn’t well grounded. This belief causes fear in us – perhaps a belief we will lose something – and the fear causes the emotion of anger. Basically, we feel threatened in some sense, and so respond with violence to destroy whatever might cause us to lose something.
This process then causes similar aspects of the process in another person, which leads to more violence, hence a cycle of violence.
The violence here could be physical, but also emotional or verbal – in essence, it is negative energy directed toward things in your thoughts. In an expansive and perhaps truer sense, this is what violence is. (‘Thou shalt not kill’ can be understand in this more expansive sense, and certainly that’s the logic Jesus works to unpack.) So, this cycle is an everyday cycle, something that for most people happens everyday and perhaps many times per day. It negatively affects our relationships, our stress levels, and our well-being.
So, how does one break the cycle? Through ‘metanoia’, or changing one’s mind. The key is to detect the lie, feeling of fear, or feeling of anger, and instead
Let go of negative emotion -> forgive -> love -> focus on goodness for the other person or situation.