For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. – Ephesians 3:14-19
Take Home 4: Involve community in your spiritual life.
We may have a lot to do, but that doesn’t mean we’re alone. God designed us to be in community, and the church can help us find Him in busy seasons. I love many things about the passage from Ephesians above, and one of them is simply that it’s a prayer Paul offers for a whole community. There are probably people in your life right now who are willing to offer prayers like these on your behalf. (If there aren’t, email ESN. We would count it a great privilege to pray for you).
There are so many small ways to invite community into our spiritual lives. Share brief prayers or Scripture verses with an accountability partner through email or text. Ask a friend to call and pray for five minutes at a scheduled time during a long week. Take your church up on it if they offer to pray for people after the service. Trade sentence prayer requests with others through an email. Ask friends to send you a link to a favorite hymn or worship song during a week you know will be crazy.
Sometimes even those small actions will seem beyond us, and it’s easy to pull away from community when we feel we have nothing more to give at a hard moment of the semester. But we can still accept the generosity of others in helping us stay connected to God, even when we’re too exhausted to initiate that conversation ourselves. J. Nathan Matias, an ESN member in graduate school, says:
One of the most helpful things has been when other people create moments that make it possible for me to flexibly enter into forms of worship or service that I am not responsible for organizing: a prayer at the end of a walk with a friend, an opportunity to serve at a time when I’m already going to church, a quote or a song shared through a messaging system that doesn’t also serve as my TODO list.
And the community that invites us to God can be incredibly diverse. The people who prayed me through graduate school included homemakers, staff members of a local food pantry, artists, lawyers, church secretaries, state tax employees, retail workers, and so many others. They hadn’t all experienced the particular challenges of graduate school, and I hadn’t always experienced the particular challenges of their lives. But we all knew what it was to follow Christ in a hard time, and their fellowship sustained me. I pray that ESN members will find and accept the generosity of community this November.
What are things other people did that made it easier for you to invite God into your life as a graduate student? We’re planning a followup post sharing responses from readers, so please comment below or email us if you’d like to tell us your answer.
Lord, help our communities to support us in times of stress and busyness, and help us to receive their support with grace and gratitude. In time, or perhaps even right now, bring us to the point where we can give generously in turn. In Jesus’ Name, amen.
Image courtesy of skeeze at Pixabay.com
About the author:
Dr. Hannah Eagleson loves building the ecosystem Christian scholars need to flourish and create positive impacts, in the university and beyond. She is Associate Director of InterVarsity’s Emerging Scholars Network, a digital first ministry serving thousands of early career Christian scholars. Dr. Eagleson launched the ESN student/early career track at the American Scientific Affiliation annual faith and science conference. She is the editor of *Science and Faith: Student Questions Explored* (Hendrickson, 2019), and the one-semester guidebook *Scholar’s Compass: Connecting Faith & Work for Academics* (InterVarsity Emerging Scholars Network, 2021), with design by noted liturgical artist Ned Bustard. She also launched the Scholar's Compass online devotional series in her previous role as ESN Editor. Dr. Eagleson holds an MA from St. John’s College (Annapolis, MD) and a PhD in Renaissance literature from the University of Delaware.