Understanding Who we are as a Whole Person
Part 2: A Physiology Lesson
May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I Thessalonians 5:23
N.T. Wright has said, “When Paul thinks of human beings, he sees every angle of vision as contributing to the whole, and the whole from every angle of vision. All lead to the one, the one is seen in all”. Our composition is fascinating and complex. In last month’s article, we covered the anatomy of what we are: body, soul (mind, will, and emotion), and spirit. This month we will talk about the “physiology”, or function, of our innermost being, the human spirit!
The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord, searching all the depth of his heart*.
(Heart in as our mind, will, emotion and spirit.)
Why would a Wellness Ministry start by talking about the health of the human spirit? First, the human spirit is our conduit to God. It is an integral part of fulfilling God’s plan to have His Spirit in our spirit. Here is where we plug into God and become His container, His light. Like electricity flowing into a machine to give it “life”, the Divine Spirit enters us through our spirit to give us life! As Christians, this is where we die to ourselves and find life through Him! Secondly, our greatest struggle is not with our body or our mind, but over our spirit in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)
Wired to Have Communion with God
The field of neuroscience has made tremendous discoveries about how our wiring influences how we function. Through functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and advanced brain scans, scientists have seen how the brain reacts to even spiritual matters. Andrew Newberg, a leading neuroscientist at Thomas Jefferson, says “the brain is an intricate system that is uniquely constructed to perceive and generate spiritual realities.”
Research done by scientists, such as Newberg, has demonstrated how deep, focused, attentive prayer stimulates the brain in a unique way more than just as a feeling. Our frontal lobe is rational and attempts to understand theology and its application. While the emotion of the experience is provided by the limbic system. Fear and anger can be soothed by our amygdala as the anterior cingulate translate our thoughts and emotions into compassion and empathy towards others.
The effects of spiritual experiences, like this type of prayer, can also cause serotonin to be released. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter produced by nerves in your brain and gut. It can elevate your mood as well as affect memory, learning, sleep, and vision. In medical cases such as clinical depression, there are many factors causing effects on the whole person. One of these effects may possibly be the blockage of serotonin, contributing to the loss of the ability to sense the Holy Spirit in even the most mature Christian, despite a head knowledge that He is there.
Prayer as a Tool to Strengthen Our Spirit
It sounds trite to call prayer a tool. What is prayer? It can be defined as everything from talking with your Heavenly Father to communing with the omnipotent, divine God of all creation. However, for this exercise we will look at prayer as a tool He has given us to strengthen our well-being. In my physical therapy clinic, when developing a treatment plan for my patient, I often tell them what I have learned that works for other patients. This gives certain credibility knowing that someone else has benefited from the instructions. So, the following are a few points of what I have learned and am learning in my own “treatment plan” for strengthening myself through prayer (although by no means have I perfected these yet):
- Empty my hands and mind by putting my focus on God and my spirit. Ask Him to strengthen my spirit through His Spirit. Robert Moll points out that some methods of prayer are filled with heavy content. Patterns of prayer such as ACTS (adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication) in some cases can keep the mind too busy for deep meditative prayer.
- Pray using Jesus’ name and/or a short passage of scripture: “Be still (let go) and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10
- Practice this focused and attentive way of praying!
- Paul tells us to pray without ceasing. How do we do this? We bring Him into our consciousness throughout the day, talking to Him frequently even if it is like having the radio playing in the background. Max Lucado says all thought is prayer. This is a hard concept, but we know God is always listening to our thoughts.
- Borrow prayers! There is a boldness in praying Paul’s prayers substituting names of those we know or our own.
- As with many things, prayer is usually very individualized how, where, and when. Take time to learn how God wants to commune with you. He longs for this!
Building a Toolbox
Just as we are marvelously made, we can be complexly broken with many factors influencing us. Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:22 that we are “being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.” The mission of the Wellness Ministry is to come together to seek knowledge on how we can build up each other physically, mentally (soul), and spiritually. Let’s build ourselves toolboxes! Perhaps the first tool you will place in yours is prayer!
The Economy of God: Witness Lee, Living Stream Ministry
What Your Body Knows About God: Rob Moll, IVP books
21 Key Bible Verses Showing the Importance of Our Spirit: Tom Smith, Holdingtotruth.com
(The Gateway Wellness Ministry is meant for educational purposes only. It is not intended for evaluation and treatment. Consult your medical provider for your own personal care.)