Jesus described the spiritual life in terms of building a house. The wise builder first digs deep and builds the foundation on rock, so the house will not be shaken by the storms of life. But the foolish one builds without a foundation, on bare dirt or sand, and ultimately experiences ruin (see Matt. 7:24-27; Luke 6:47-49). Jesus is that all-important foundation, or cornerstone, of our spiritual houses (see Luke 20:17). Without Him, we cannot possibly succeed. His grace grounds us and enables us to stand strong in any weather. When we invite Him in, we receive His spiritual foundation into our lives. And we receive the grace (or divine empowerment) needed to build our houses upon His foundation.
When reminding potential disciples to first count the cost of following Him before committing, Jesus again compared the spiritual life to the act of building, saying:
Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, “This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish” (Luke 14:28-30).
In other words, when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we embark on a building project that will last the duration of our lives. We begin to build our spiritual houses atop His foundation, and whether or not our houses get built is up to us. The apostle Paul also discussed this reality in his letter to the Corinthians:
For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames (1 Corinthians 3:11-15).
What we build upon Jesus’ foundation in our lives is up to us. We can build with strong materials that will endure, or we can build with weak materials that will not. Here, Paul was not speaking about salvation but about maturity. All of the people in Paul’s illustration are saved; all of them have the foundation of Christ, but not all of them build their spiritual lives in a way that receives a heavenly reward. This is important because our spiritual lives are about much more than salvation. That is just the beginning. We receive Christ’s new life within us, and then He calls us to spiritually grow up into mature sons and daughters of God.
To do so, we must learn to know God. We must read the Bible, learn to talk to Him, and learn to hear His voice. We must learn who He says we are and all He has given to us. All of these and more are discovered in Scripture and through building our relationship with God. When we invite Jesus into our hearts, His Spirit lives within us, and we are never apart. The Bible makes this clear: “God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’” (Heb. 13:5). And Jesus told His disciples, “Surely I am with you always” (Matt. 28:20). No matter what is going on around us, He is with us, and we can talk with Him and experience His presence at any time. Brother Lawrence famously called this the practice of His presence. No matter where we are or what’s happening around us, He is with us, and we can commune with Him.
This is a beautiful reality. But if we want to build strong spiritual houses, we also need one-on-one time with God. Some people refer to this as devotional time or quiet time; I like to call it the inward life of prayer and the secret place. This inward life is important because it gives us the quiet and space we need to daily discover more and more of who God is and what He is speaking to us. When we spend time communing with the Spirit of God and reading the Bible, we are building a strong and beautiful house upon the foundation of Christ. In that place, we discover the greatest of loves, and we learn to live in God’s peace and joy. In this world full of distractions and difficulties, we desperately need that time alone with Him. Only there will we find the ability to build our spiritual houses.
However, despite the goodness we find in the secret place, many of us struggle to regularly spend time alone with God. We feel overwhelmed or distracted by life, and though we desire to spend time with Jesus, so many other things hold our attention. We want to be close to God, to build a balanced, heartfelt, and consistent intimacy with Him. Yet such a relationship only comes through private and undistracted time with God. Thus, when we do not practice inward, secret prayer, the result is a weakened spiritual life. The result is unsatisfied hunger. This, of course, is not God’s desire for us. He wants us to thrive in our relationship with Him and to become mature master builders who build upon Christ’s foundation with gold, silver, and precious stones.
We must answer that hunger by building a consistent and fulfilling prayer life. This is not, of course, to the exclusion of other spiritual disciplines. Regular Bible-reading is just as important as secret prayer. Many Christians tend toward one or the other, but we desperately need both to maintain a balanced and intimate relationship with Christ. What is more important on a bird—the left wing or the right wing? Obviously, a bird needs both wings to fly. Similarly, we need to know God both through His Word and through personal prayer in order to soar in our lives with Him. One without the other will leave us spiritually stranded, like a one-winged bird. To separate prayer from the Bible is to flirt with error.
In my own life, I have discovered several pillars that hold up my spiritual house, and I have found patterns for building that have enabled me to consistently spend time with God and grow spiritually. The five pillars of a healthy prayer life:
- Intimacy with God
- The Father’s love
- Our new creation identity
- Living from rest
- Our spiritual senses
These, combined with practical steps and discipline create a solidly built inward life of prayer and communion with God.
Many people have felt like a good personal prayer life is elusive or even impossible. I am here to say the opposite. Not only is it possible, but it can be your reality. By the grace of God, it is not as hard as it may sometimes seem. I invite you to join me on the journey of building your spiritual house on Christ’s foundation through the practice of prayer.