Developing and improving good spiritual habits is not easy, nor automatic, for most people. The path to spiritual development is usually uneven and difficult.
When I was preparing to serve a full-time mission, I went to my branch president asking what I needed to do to serve with honor. He gave me a list which included scripture study, spiritual and physical preparedness, and even cooking skills. As I gladly started preparing in every way to be a ‘great missionary,’ I noticed some things were easier to do than others and some were rather difficult. Nevertheless, I tried my best to become what the Lord expected of me, even with the challenges I faced during that time.
Preparation was not easy, but it resulted in true blessings that I still enjoy. I continue to treasure many sweet memories of the people I encountered as a missionary and the spiritual experiences I had. As I followed the counsel from my leaders, though difficult at times, their instructions helped me become the missionary the Lord wanted me to be and, over time, have become a part of my life and my spiritual being.
Similarly, when we strive to achieve measurable results in whatever area we want to improve in, sometimes it is not easy to follow directions, adhere to strict rules or simply keep focused. For example, if we want to keep our physical body healthy and strong, we need to exercise frequently and provide it with food and water at regular intervals. Failing to do so, will cause weakness, or sickness and, if we are not careful, even death. A perfect balance needs to include not only the right things to keep our body healthy, but we must also avoid harmful substances and practices which can be damaging to our body.
The same principles apply to our spiritual body, which needs to be nurtured constantly to keep healthy and vigorous. The spiritual regimen must include good habits that will nurture the spirit but also must avoid habits that will damage the spirit. In essence, it will be important to provide what is needed frequently and at regular intervals to ensure constant nourishment.
The spiritual regimen must include regular spiritual exercises like daily prayer and scripture study, performing service as well as weekly spiritual nourishment. This nourishment comes by partaking of the sacrament, attending church meetings and fasting monthly. Regularly we renew our temple recommend to make sure that all spiritual elements are provided in balanced measure to ensure the spiritual body is nourished adequately. At times, it will be necessary to fast and pray for help to provide our spirit with additional strength and energy to face specific challenges.
As I recall my missionary experience and how difficult it was to prepare, yet at the same time, how joyful it was, I think of the sons of Mosiah who understood how important it was to nurture their spirit with abundant additional energy obtained through spiritual habits.
“…for they were men of a sound understanding and they had searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God. But this is not all; they had given themselves to much prayer, and fasting; therefore they had the spirit of prophecy, and the spirit of revelation, and when they taught, they taught with power and authority of God.”Alma 17: 2-3
Daily spiritual exercise is also needed to maintain a testimony and make sure certainty succeeds doubt, because what we possess today, in testimony, will not be there tomorrow unless we do something to maintain it. Just like exercising physical muscles increases strength and size, in order to make a testimony strong and lasting, we need consistent daily spiritual routines.
The tendency of the natural man is always to expect more from the Lord and less from himself. As we develop stronger spiritual habits and experience a powerful change of heart by nourishing our spirit frequently, regularly and adequately, these spiritual habits become an integral part of ourselves and we start expecting more and more of ourselves and less and less from the Lord.
May we work diligently to prepare, train and nurture our spirit, just like we do with our body, by developing good spiritual habits and avoiding the destructive habits of the world. It might be painful and hard at the beginning, but certainly worth it as we enjoy the blessings of this spiritual process of growth and well-being.