From prayer wimp to prayer warrior
A few years ago, I wanted to improve my fitness. Rather than pay a fortune for a gym membership, I decided to take up running. There was a problem, though. While some of my friends were running triathlons and marathons, I was struggling to run to the end of the street. I knew what my friends could do, but I couldn’t do it myself.
I’ve met lots of Christians who have the same dilemma with prayer. They want to pray, and they listen to enough prayers in church to know how to pray, but whenever they try to pray themselves, they quickly run out of steam and get discouraged. They want to be prayer warriors but discover that they’re prayer wimps.
Perhaps that’s how you feel, too.
Couch to 5k
For aspiring runners, there’s a programme called ‘Couch to 5k’. The idea is that even if all you’ve been doing is sitting on the couch for years, you can soon learn to run at least 5km – just over three miles. So that’s the programme I started.
Of course, the programme doesn’t say to go straight from the couch to 5k. We can’t run before we can walk. So the programme suggested jogging slowly for 100m or so, and then walking for a minute or two to get your breath back. (Or, in my case, walking for several minutes!) Then you’d jog a bit more.
For the first couple of weeks, I was probably only running about 500m each time I went out – not the 5,000 metres which was my aim. But again, that was OK, the programme said. And, of course, the more I ran, the better my endurance became.
In precisely the same way, our persistence in prayer can only come about as a result of our praying. The more we pray, the more persistent we will be. If we haven’t prayed much, or we’re a bit out of practice, it may be hard at first. But if we persist, we’ll build up those spiritual muscles, and breathe new life into our praying.
Couch to 5k – in praying
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to do a ‘couch to 5k’ in praying? Couch to 5k works by alternating walking and running. Walking gets your breath back and running builds your stamina. When I first started running, I struggled to run for more than about 30 seconds before I had to walk again. Perhaps your prayer life is like that. Maybe you struggle to pray for more than a minute or two before you run out of spiritual energy. If so, don’t think you’re the only person who feels like that. It’s how everyone starts.
Thankfully there is a prayer equivalent to ‘couch to 5k’, and it works in a very similar way. In ‘couch to 5k’, we begin by walking. That gets us moving and later will also help us to get our breath back. In prayer, the best equivalent of walking that I know is reading a short passage from the Bible that reminds you of God’s grace in Jesus Christ. That will get you moving, and later on will help you think of many more things to pray for.
There are lots of places in the Bible that we can use for this, but one of my favourite passages to help in praying is Ephesians 1:3–2:10. If you’re not sure where to start, that’s a great place.
So how might this work in practice? The praying equivalent of a warm-up walk is to read a single verse – or perhaps even just half a verse. So you could start by reading Ephesians 1:3 which says, ‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.’
Hopefully that’s got you moving, so it’s now time to run a little – in other words, it’s time to pray. Use what you’ve just read to help you. So you might pray something like this:
Father God, I want to praise you for the Lord Jesus Christ. I want to thank you for all the blessings that you have given us. I thank you that those blessings aren’t just here on earth, but you have also blessed us in the heavenly realms. I’m not sure exactly what that means so please help me to understand more about these heavenly blessings and what they mean for my life. I’m sure there are many spiritual blessings in Christ that I don’t see or don’t value. I’m sorry if I take for granted the blessings you give. But please help me to see all the heavenly and spiritual blessings that I have in Christ.
At that point, you may run out of spiritual energy. Or, if you’re a little more used to praying, you might want to keep on praying over this verse – perhaps because you could bring to mind specific spiritual blessings that you want to thank God for. But it doesn’t matter either way. It’s not a competition. The point is that you’re praying, and you’re using God’s Word to help you. That’s great!
But whenever it is that you feel you’ve prayed through all of Ephesians 1:3, it’s then time to walk for a little bit. So now we read verse 4: ‘For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.’
Now that’s a verse that will get us running (praying) again! Perhaps try it now. Turn verse 4 into a prayer. You could thank God for choosing you. You could ask him for help in believing these truths and for help in living a holy life. If you’ve doubted these truths, or lived as if you’ve doubted them, you could ask forgiveness and for God’s help to put that right. You could pray for friends who are struggling or doubting these truths. You could think of Christians in other parts of the world who would be helped by bringing these truths to mind. You could pray for friends who are not yet Christians that they would come to believe these truths.
And when you run out of things to pray about from verse 4, you can catch your spiritual breath by reading verse 5, and then praying over that verse. At the end of the paragraph, you might want to draw your prayers to an end. Or you may feel encouraged to keep going! It’s up to you. But end by thanking God for his help, and asking him to help you again tomorrow.
Couch to 5k does work. And I guarantee that if you do the praying equivalent, you’ll find – perhaps to your great surprise – that praying gets easier and easier. It will never become effortless, just as running is always hard work. But the more you pray, the more your spirit will grow, the more persistent you will become, and the more your prayers will flow. Soon, you too could find yourself moving from being a prayer wimp to becoming a prayer warrior.
If you’d like to know more about using the Bible to help you to pray, Donald S. Whitney’s Praying the Bibleis a wonderfully practical (and short!) guide.