How would you describe your prayer life? I am going to assume most of you reading this pray. I'm even going to go further in my assumption and say that your kids pray. And they have been praying even before they could talk. They would see you bow your head and fold your hands, so they bow their head, squint their tiny eyes shut and fold their chubby little hands together and stop talking while you pray, or even mouth or speak the words to the common table prayer and the Lord's prayer. Or maybe you have a little hymn that you use as a prayer at meal time and bedtime that the children have memorized and like to sing. Am I right? Is my assumption fair?
This was how I grew up praying.
But as I grew older (and a little wiser), I realized that I was missing out on a constant connection, on a direct dialogue and immediate conversation with God. Psalm 38:9
All my longings lie open before you, Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you.
Prayer is not like wishing in a well as you throw your penny in. Nor is it similar to making a wish when you see a shooting star. Prayer is open communication with the Creator of the Universe. Prayer is a constant state of mind. Prayer is an understanding that we are not alone. Prayer trusts that our requests and our praises are heard and will be answered according to His will. Prayer has unlimited potential. C.S Lewis says:
I pray because the need flows out of me, all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn't change God, it changes me.
Maybe a lot of us find it difficult to pray, other than the Lord's prayer or the common table prayer. Maybe it's because you feel you lack the eloquence or vocabulary. Maybe you try, but then lose your train of thought and start thinking about something else. I recommend associating prayer with a physical action. Let me give you an example. I pray when I exercise, specifically when I run or bike ride. Most of the time it's not scripted, nor is it even prepared. I simply have made the connection by habitually associating exercising with prayer. I intentionally talk to Jesus as I run or ride. Of course, as a fitness professional, I think a good way to improve your prayer life and your physical life is to exercise. Designate a mile to a person, a specific prayer request, a prayer of thanksgiving, or whatever it is that is on your mind to pray about.
I have found associating prayer with an activity to be a great way to start incorporating prayer through-out my day, but be sure to follow Jesus' example of prayer. Numerous times in the Bible we see Jesus separating himself from the crowd and going off alone to pray. This demonstrates how important it is to how focused prayer time too. To have a time that is designated solely to prayer.
I ran a 10K race with my sisters, husband and brothers-in-law a few years ago. My sister Abby (featured in a Mentor Monday post that you can find here) and I ran most of the race side-by-side. She and I prayed out loud almost the entire race. I had been running for years prior to this race, but this was the first time my prayer wasn't just, "Lord help me get through this race". I will always remember that race. And not just because Abby beat me. But more because she opened my mind up to idea that I like to call "prayer-athoning". Now there isn't a time when I am running or biking, either indoors or out, that I am not praying. Abby and I were approached after the race by a runner who was near us most of the race and she thanked us for praying and even introduced us to her friend and said "these are the girls I was talking about". Prayer changes people. It's not the people praying, but the power of prayer itself that makes an impact, maybe not even one that the person praying is aware of. But God knows.
My most recent prayer-athon was this past weekend. I ran a half marathon with a few friends and my husband. I posted on my public Facebook page that I needed prayer requests for my miles, to help me move through them with more ease. I was overwhelmed by the response I got. I was humbled and felt a great sense of privilege and community (another shameless plug for exercise and its benefits, community being a HUGE one). These prayer requests not only helped me finish, but now as I think back to a certain point of the race, I will always remember who I was thinking about and praying for when. God allowed me to have this incredible connection to people who I don't even know very well. I will always associate a certain mile with someone. For those of you wondering, I wrote the list out on a notecard that I folded and held in my hand. I opened it up every mile to see who I got to pray for next. I put it in my media pocket in my capris the last mile of the race and it got all full of sweat and basically disintegrated. I wish I wouldn't have done that. I wish I could've saved that list, as it saved me from giving up during the race more than once. I will just have to write another one for my next race.
Prayer impacts people. It's not the person praying, but the prayer that leaves the mark, that makes an activity/event memorable. Have I convinced you to start running? Well, maybe your prayer-athon doesn't have to be exercise, but I challenge you to associate a daily task this week with prayer. Maybe this is while you're doing the dishes, or folding laundry, or nursing the baby, or mowing the lawn, or while the coffee is brewing, or as you set the table for dinner, as you lie in bed before you're ready to get up for the day, as you are picking up the toys at the close of the day, while showering, while brushing your teeth or as you are sewing or playing an instrument. Chose one or two of these things that you do daily and can associate as your prayer-athon. There doesn't have to be a list. There is not formality that must be followed. It just needs to be a genuine, honest, bold and trusting conversation.