I started stretching a while back. I would be the first to tell you, it was ugly. I was nowhere near hitting the mark the demonstration video laid out. I began this endeavor because I made it a goal to be able to touch my toes. This seemed like a simple task when I first made it, but I never realized how stiff my body was.
It hurt when I first started stretching. I was uncomfortable and I wasn’t completely confident I was doing it right. I wanted to quit so many times. Yet, each time I wanted to release and quit stretching, the voice on the video would tell me: “Follow the model as best you can, keep good form, don’t worry what you look like and just keep stretching.” I can’t quit because I really want to touch my toes before I’m 30!
That’s how I feel about my prayer life; it’s uncomfortable. I don’t know if I’m saying the right words. Is this how it’s supposed to look? Praying takes spiritual muscles. Now, don’t get me wrong, you don’t have to be a super Christian to pray, but the more you stretch those muscles, the more natural your prayer life becomes.
Paul reminds us to keep stretching in Colossians 4:2, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Stay devoted to prayer—stay devoted to stretching your spiritual muscles. When we stretch in prayer, we find we grow in other areas as well. Here are three areas where we will see growth.
Growth in Steadfastness
Successful athletes know what it means to pursue a goal with earnestness. Practicing day after day, week after week, they press on despite weather and weariness. They manage their time and make daily practice a priority. Alabama Head Football Coach, Nick Saban, is arguably the greatest college football coach of all time. He constantly speaks on loving the process as much as the result. It’s great to have goals, but to reach those goals, we have to put a supreme focus on what it takes to achieve them.
Remember, our goal in prayer is not to get what we want. Our goal in prayer is to be more like Christ by spending time with Him. He didn’t come to just give you daily bread—He is your daily bread.
Growth in Watchfulness
Throughout the scriptures, we see this phrase: “Watch and pray.”
“Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mark 14:38).
These two are synonymous and in tandem with each other. When we separate watching and praying, we miss out on the things God wants to show us throughout our day.
Call me crazy, but I love redundant and mindless routines. Sometimes it’s nice to not have to think. Yet, our routines tend to make us nonchalant and unobservant. If we are not careful, we can miss the details. Our mindless routines should turn into a steadfast system. While operating, we are also looking and anticipating the change God desires to bring about the day. A prayer life marked by watchfulness is one where the distractions of sleepiness, anxieties, and conflicts are replaced by attentiveness and focus.
Growth in Reliance
In C.S. Lewis’s novel, The Magician’s Nephew, Aslan sends Polly, Digory, and their horse, Fledge, on an important quest across the land of Narnia. When night falls, the children grow hungry and realize they have nothing to eat.
“Well, I do think someone might have arranged about our meals,’ said Digory.
‘I’m sure Aslan would have, if you’d asked him,’ said Fledge
‘Wouldn’t he know without being asked?’ said Polly.
‘I’ve no doubt he would,’ said the Horse. ‘But I’ve a sort of idea he likes to be asked.”
In Matthew 6:8, Jesus told His disciples, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” Then He went on to give them instructions on how to pray. I don’t like asking for help or assistance. To me, it comes across as waving a white flag in surrender, or that I’m weak and can’t figure something out. The Bible flips that type of shame on its head and encourages you to boast in your weaknesses. Our weaknesses in prayer point us to the one who knows our needs and is interceding for us. God wants to hear from us. Though He may already know our need, He longs for us to talk with Him and make our request known.
When you don’t see the growth and progress you desire and feel like you want to release and quit—just keep stretching. You may not see it every day, but when we stretch in prayer, we grow in steadfastness, watchfulness, and reliance on God. We may not be where we want to be yet, but that’s okay. Just keep stretching.