Prayer for Health


By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Eternal and Compassionate God,

We thank you, Lord, for visiting us when we are afflicted and suffer unjustly.

For you are a God who cares, who understands our grief, our wounds, our sorrows, our diseases.

We lay our afflictions before you for we cannot bear them alone.

Heal our wounds, comfort us in our griefs, and purge us of disease.

Restore us; redeem us; save us.

Teach us to bear the wounds, griefs, and diseases of those around us and to point them to you.

Teach us to intercede for the people around us in action and in prayer.

For you are our God and we are your people.

You are with us; you are for us; and you have given your name to us. In the power of your Holy Spirit, let our security reside only in you, now and always.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Prayer for Health

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Believer’s Prayer

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Knopf Exercises Core for Health and Strength

Core_review_06082015Karl Knopf.  2012. Core Strength for 50+.  Berkeley:  Ulysses Press.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

In 2012 I worked for 3 months in an Alzheimer’s unit associated with a local hospital. One of the critical features of life in the unit was the question of mobility, strength, and stability. Loss of mobility was often the kiss of death because bed-ridden residents would suffer muscle atrophy, depression, and decline—even death. The triggering event is most frequently a fall. Consequently, physical therapy—usually simple exercises—was critical to health maintenance and longevity.

Interest in “core exercises” arose out of the increasingly sophisticated field of sports medicine. The core is “the region from the tops of the legs to the shoulder” (8). Just likely the elderly, professional athletes are prone to injury although they heal better than older people. National attention was drawn to core exercises in the early 1980s when it is was used San Francisco 49er quarterback, Joe Montana (9).

The motivation for adding core exercises to your routine arises because:

“Having an aligned and strong yet flexible core can take the load off the vertebral column and discs [lower back], which results in improved function and less discomfort and pain” (8).

The benefits of core exercises include both preventative and rehabilitation objectives:

“improved posture, which allows you to present a more youthful appearance [not bent over like many elderly people], and balance.  It also means less load on the lumbar region of your low back, reducing the risk of injury to any arthritic joints and discs in addition to pain.  Performance in sports and recreational pursuits is also boosted.” (13-14)

I wish that I had been introduced to such exercises as a young person because in junior high school I injured my back tube-surfing at the ocean and suffered severe lower back pain episodically ever since.  In 2008, the pain was so bad that I was on my back for 3 days in a row twice during the summer.  After visiting a back specialist, I added Pilates exercises, a kind of core exercise, before my daily swim[1].

Karl Knopf’s book, Core Strength for 50+, draws on the author’s experience with both the elderly and professional athletes. Knopf is a professor emeritus of Foothill College[2] and longtime director of senior fitness with the International Sports Science Association (127)[3].  He is also the author of numerous exercise books (125)[4].  Knopf divides his book into 3 parts:

  1. Getting Started
  2. The Programs and
  3. The Exercises (v).

His introduction is part of part 1.  Following part 3 are a topical index, acknowledgments, and a brief biography of the author.

Knopf divides core training into 4 stages:

  1. Leaning to contract deep-lying muscles.
  2. Focus on endurance of those muscles.
  3. Challenges to the core with arm motions. And
  4. Additional challenges to the core (14).

The attitude appropriate for these exercises is important.  Knopf sees these principles as key:

  • Concentration and perseverance.
  • Quality of movement is more important than quantity.
  • Slow, purposeful progression to more challenging movements. and
  • The ability to perform every action from a neutral spine (15).

This last point came as a surprise.  Knopf is very concerned with proper posture.  He writes:  “Learning to sit, stand, and move in the most biomechanical manner is foundational.” He advises: “If you want to look young, stand tall.” (16)  After reading this, I became very self-conscious how I walked…

The philosophy of core training is likewise a bit different.  Knopf writes:  “The key to a well-aligned core is to strengthen that which is weak and lengthen that which is inflexible.” (22)  The way this is done explains all the exotic equipment found around gyms these days—big round plastic balls, form rubber rollers, kettle bells, etc. Exercising with unstable surfaces, like doing push-ups with a plastic ball in one hand, engages more muscle groups in the core (23).

Karl Knopf’s book, Core Strength for 50+, is an interesting and helpful book.  Not only did reading it help me understand my own exercise routine—the Pilates—but I also appreciated the update on the exotic gym equipment.  Exotic no longer seems so exotic.

I have changed my exercise routine; you may too.



[2] 12345 El Monte Road, Los Altos Hills, CA 94022.  (



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Scazzero Links Emotional and Spiritual Health

Scazzero_review_0530215Peter Scazzero.  2006.  Emotionally Healthy Spirituality:  It’s Impossible to be Spiritually Mature While Remaining Emotionally Immature.  Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

The collage provides an important symbol of the postmodern era.  A collage is collection of art objects strung together  whose defining concept is balance.  The solar system is a kind of collage, but before the Copernican revolution the balance was not obvious.

The cosmos became mathematically simpler to model with the Copernican revolution.  When astronomers started seeing the earth revolving around sun rather than around the earth, the stability of the planetary system became obvious.  In a similar sense, postmodern ministry looks like a collage—pre-Copernican—until it is brought into conformity with Christ.  In his book, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, Peter Scazzero centers on helping pastors and Christians to travel this journey successfully.


Peter Scazzero is a founder, former senior pastor, and now teaching pastor at New Life Fellowship Church in Queens, New York[1].  Peter and his wife, Geri, also found Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, a teaching ministry[2].  Scazzero divides his book into 2 parts:  The problem of emotionally unhealthy spirituality (chapters 1-3) and the pathway to emotionally healthy spirituality (4-10).  The chapter titles are:

  1. Recognizing the tip-of-the-iceberg spirituality (something is desperately wrong).
  2. The top ten symptoms of emotionally unhealthy spirituality (diagnosing the problem).
  3. The radical antidote: emotional health and contemplative spirituality (bringing transformation to the deep places).
  4. Know yourself that you may know God (Becoming your authentic self).
  5. Going back in order to go forward (breaking the power of the past).
  6. Journey through the wall (letting go of power and control).
  7. Enlarge your soul through grief and loss (surrendering to your limits).
  8. Discover the rhythms of the daily office and Sabbath (stopping to breath the air of eternity).
  9. Grow into an emotionally mature adult (learning new skills to love well).
  10. Go the next step to develop a “rule of life” (loving Christ above all else) (iii-iv).

These chapters are preceded by acknowledgments and an introduction.  They are followed by 2 appendices, notes, and a short biography of the author.

If spirituality is lived belief, then a well-formed theology leads us to a complete and well-formed spirituality. God’s immutable character and emotional stability become a model for our own virtuous character and emotional stability [3].  If theology is neglected, by contrast, then we work from an incomplete model–our spirituality will have holes like an unbalanced and haphazardly constructed collage.  For many Christians, one of those holes has  been their emotional life.

Personality Components

Scazzero sees our person divide into 5 discrete components: emotional, social, intellectual, spiritual, and physical (18).  Scazzero’s Copernican revolution arose in seeing a link between the emotional and spiritual components of his life (19).  An important breakthrough came in discovering that he had misapplied biblical truths in his life (23).  He accordingly cited 10 symptoms of an emotionally unhealthy spirituality:

  1. Using God to run away from God.
  2. Ignoring the emotions of anger, sadness, and fear.
  3. Dying to the wrong things.
  4. Denying the past’s impact on the present.
  5. Dividing our lives into secular and sacred compartments.
  6. Doing for God instead of being with God.
  7. Spiritualizing away conflict.
  8. Covering over brokenness, weakness, and failure.
  9. Living without limits.
  10. Judging other people’s spiritual journey (24).

While he devotes chapter 2 to discussing these problems, they arise in different forms throughout the book.  I too struggle with these symptoms in my own faith journey all too often.


Scazzero covers a lot of ground in this book. Nevertheless, one priceless image stands out  which Scazzero draws from Parker Palmer’s book, A Hidden Wholeness[4].  Scazzero likens our lives to a white-out blizzard where it is easy to get lost and freeze to death without a rope to bind us to our home. The rope that he suggests is the daily office—praying the hours (153-157). Praying the hours structures our day around God. Great analogy; good advice.  Scazzero goes on to recommend developing a Saint Benedict’s rule of life (198-200) and making use of Saint Ignatius Loyola’s prayer of examin (211).

Peter Scazzero’s Emotionally Healthy Spirituality is a helpful and accessible read.



[3]See, for example, Matthew A. Elliott. 2006. Faithful Feelings:  Rethinking Emotion in the New Testament.  Grand Rapids:  Kregel.

[4]Parker J. Palmer. 2009.  A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life.  San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Scazzero Links Emotional and Spiritual Health

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