It finally hit me. Though I'd read and studied the Bible, absorbed Christian magazines, books, and TV shows, attended church faithfully, and maintained a God-consciousness throughout the day – I'd been a spiritual wimp.

I should have realized it the day I zinged off the back of a treadmill. I had no sense of the slowing pace of my stride – my eyes were closed, head bowed, mind deep in prayer.

The problem was that I always tried to pray in conjunction with some mindless activity. Why? So I wouldn't be wasting time. No wonder God let me take a tumble! My prayer closet consisted of the shower, the car, or wherever I happened to be in moments of desperation and worry.

Then I read an article by Becky Tirabassi. As explained in her book, Let Prayer Change Your Life. Becky has fashioned a 12-year habit of daily prayer recorded on her word processor. Writing prayers, she explained, keeps you focused.

Writing Maintains Focus

I now have a daily prayer session, pecking away on my notebook computer. It instantly became a time to which I look forward. I realize the necessity of prayer to spiritual development the way I know exercise is critical to physical fitness.

This is a striking realization to me because I used to call myself – maybe not audibly but in my mind – an exercise evangelist. This was before I realized the much higher calling of evangelism. I even once unleashed a physical-fitness filibuster to deflect my sister's pleading that I accept Jesus. It terrifies me to think that until a few years ago my god was a set of Nautilus machines.

I still appreciate the benefits of consistent, effective exercise. This was verified again recently when a client in my personal training business recuperated from a hysterectomy far more easily than she had been warned by less-fit friends.

Spiritual Fitness Components

Spiritually, we have degrees of fitness based on our attention to not just prayer, of course, but also necessities such as Bible study, praise, worship, fellowship, fasting, and tithing.

The patience for prayer eluded me previous to this recent discovery, however. I relished instant gratification, not the painfully slow process of sowing and reaping. Prayer seemed less tangible an endeavor compared to other Spirit-related activities.

Then I realized that I was like someone lining up for the Boston Marathon without having put in a mile of road work. Once the race is about to start it is too late to get into shape. You're left to regret not having done so. If I interpret the book of Daniel correctly, I sense God saved Daniel from the lion's den because Daniel had an excellent spirit (Daniel 5:12, 6:3).

What was one of the indications of Daniel's excellent spirit? He prayed consistently, even in defiance of the king's prohibition.

I know what skipping a couple of workouts does to my physical condition. The edge dulls. I've had clients abandon their fitness program and then return several months later considerably weaker and less enduring. Why did it take me so long to realize that regular prayer fortifies my spirit the way that exercise enhances my physical capability?

Shape Up For Challenges

I want to be in shape for the lion's dens, fiery furnaces, and wilderness experiences that refine our Christlike character.

Until I started writing my prayers, my mind drifted after even just a few minutes. I would trigger my prayers occasionally from the melodies and lyrics of music, but even this lacked the impact of a prayer journal. A record of your prayers is also a reminder of them. This can be challenging, such as the time I promised God 20 percent of the gross of any new clientele I garnered that week. When the windfall of new clients fell, my memory turned fuzzy.

Did I promise God 20 percent of this week's gross? Or was that last week? Wasn't it only 10 percent? Does a client who originally contacted me last week count if he didn't sign up until this week? My computerized prayer journal enabled me to review and disabled me from wiggling off the hook. But accountability is only an interesting byproduct.

The Bible teaches that prayer is the means by which our relationship with God is maintained. I used to think that Bible study alone would suffice.

Since becoming consistent with prayer I've noticed that laying my heart open to God builds greater faith and trust. I dig out more deeply personal aspects of my life. Suppose that all God chooses to know of us is what we choose to reveal? I want to be willingly transparent with God.

I make specific petitions. One day I asked for a small amount of additional income to cover the cost of an employee taking my place in the afternoons so I could spend time writing.

"Oh, God," I prayed, "if it is your will for me to do more writing, please bring revenue that will make the time available." The next day a former client re-enrolled immediately. God exceeded the amount needed. The more I pray, the more opportunity I give God to respond. Every answered prayer is like a set of pushups – it makes my faith stronger.

My allotted minimum prayer time of 30 minutes will hopefully soon expand. The longer I pray, the more praise and thanks I include, the more I intercede for others, the more deeply I seek God's will, and the more thoroughly I confess my sins.

Like a good workout, prayer gives me an uplifted feeling throughout the entire day. The way a fit body boosts personal confidence, prayer provides the privileged feeling of membership in God's eternal family. Prayer puts the muscle into my spiritual life.

– Terry Duschinski
Copyright 1999, Terry Duschinski
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