A Curious Connection: Exercise and Prayer

I tend to compartmentalize. I’m great at understanding and even memorizing most kinds of information—I’m not great at analyzing it and connecting it to other information. I can have all the pieces, but the puzzle just doesn’t come together for me without significant effort.

If you hadn’t guessed, that was a lame excuse for a somewhat disjointed and inconclusive post. I have some concepts that are trying to come together in my mind, but they’re just not there yet. Oftentimes writing helps me process things better, so I’m dragging you along for the ride. Who knows, maybe you’ll have some valuable input or be able to direct me to good resources.

Or, maybe you’ll just think I’m really out there. Either way…

I’ve mentioned a couple of times on this blog that there seems to be a connection between my workouts and my prayer life. I’m just way more likely to begin praying without a conscious decision to do so when I am working out. Curiosity about this this connection has nagged at me off and on. I’m pretty convinced it has something to do with the will. I know that prayer is about submission to God, but it is also very much about exercising our will. We express our will to God through prayers of petition. Even when our prayers center on aligning our desires with His, the choice to express and carry out that submission is a definite act of the will. Plus, it is an act of the will to choose to communicate through prayer in the first place.

I hate exercising when it is just for the sake of exercising. It requires a tremendous amount of willpower to get myself to go out to the garage and do uncomfortable things to my body for the sake of imperceptible results. When I do, I am using my will to fight against what my body feels like doing in order to achieve what is best for my body. I think that awakens something in me—my spirit is more ready to engage in pro-activity as well.

I converse with God throughout the day, and I believe in a disciplined prayer life. But there is a different caliber, spontaneity, or alertness to my prayer when I am already actively fighting my flesh.  My experience in the matter has been with exercise, but I think anything that requires a certain level discipline and willpower could have the same effect.

What I don’t understand are the mechanics of what is taking place. Is the flesh simply already beat down, and the obstacles to following the Spirit’s leading removed? Or do I spend most of my time operating in a state of physical and spiritual lethargy that requires more work to break through and get to the business of prayer?   The Bible seems to make a connection between physical discipline, prayer, and walking in the Spirit.

Matthew 26:40-45 (NASB)
40 And He came* to the disciples and found* them sleeping, and said* to Peter, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour?
41 “Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak…43 Again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy….
45 Then He came* to the disciples and said* to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting?

1 Corinthians 9:27 (NIV) 27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

Clearly, physical discipline is necessary for obeying God when we have a sin nature to fight against, but is there more to it than that?

I apologize if I’m getting too mystical here. Maybe I’m just dancing around the obvious. But, like I said—I haven’t put it all together yet…

What do you think?

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3 thoughts on “A Curious Connection: Exercise and Prayer”

  1. I believe a healthy body helps free us from constant attention to the body’s aches and pains and insecurities such as do I look good. Guilt over snacking and overeating and guilt in general from not staying fit causes us to focus more and more on our physical world and less on God. I think you are on to something making the connection about feeling compelled to pray and meditate on God during exercise. I speak from experience on this, since I certainly am not one who is setting the example on fitness. I struggle with it constantly. I need my daughter here to invite me to go jogging, like you did when you were 18 years old!

    1. Dad – I absolutely agree that taking care of our bodies helps us be all we can be for God. I struggle with it too. 🙂

      What I am hinting at in this post is the significance and effect of the human will in spiritual warfare and how that it is related to or affected by the exercise of our will through physical discipline.

      Still chewing on it…

      BTW, Jogging might not be the best option for either of us anymore…maybe we should try water aerobics? Or how about speed walking–we could wear matching polyester leisure suits!

      1. Matching polyester sutits? I don’t think so! How about matching Carharts shorts, work boots and a stocking cap? Seriously though, the thought of speed walking with you in the mornings is very pleasant and would be a lot of fun.

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