An Empty Treadmill Does Me No Good: How Physical Exercise & Prayer Are Alike

Posted: February 25, 2015 in 99-Uncategorized
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Luke 11:1-13 — As a person who at age 52 is struggling with his weight, I have a great desire to lose weight. It is my estimate that to feel my best and to get rid of this plump gut that I have acquired from years of abusing my body that I must lose about 25-30 lbs. One of my problems is that about the only time that I have daily is to get up at 4:45am each weekday morning and exercise. I have the tools for the process. I have a weight bench with weights. I have a treadmill with enough bells and whistles that I can walk and run from anywhere from 2 mph to 5 mph and from an incline of 0% to 12%. The treadmill has programs in it to vary speeds and inclines during the course of a workout. Since the beginning of the year, I had been pretty dedicated to the routine. However, for the last two weeks, since Elena and I went away and are now back from our weekend getaway at Valentine’s weekend, I have not exercised once since before we left. Sure, it has been cold and my exercise equipment is in the garage. That has been a major excuse. But, ya know, prior to this two weeks when it has been extremely cold outside side, I had been exercising inside by doing 60 sets of stair climbs (one trip up and one trip down being a set). Why is it that all of a sudden that I have quit and the excuse that I had previously figured out a way around now dominates as the reason I don’t get up and exercise. Why is that now for the last two weeks that I don’t overcome the excuses? I have now become ineffective in my exercise life because I have let the desire for sleep become greater than my desire to exercise. I have all the tools I need but for the last two weeks I have found reasons not to utilize them.

I think this illustration is perfect for the passage that we move into today. We will have to visit this passage for a couple of days because Jesus says a great deal about prayer in this passage. Jesus tells us how to exercise our prayer muscles in this passage.

As we are passing through Luke, we find passages that are extremely familiar to us. Today, when we move into Luke 11:1-13 we find another familiar passage. This one is familiar to us because it contains an abridged version of the Lord’s Prayer. It is not the full length version as appears in Matthew 6:9-13, but it only leaves out “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” and “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”. This passage is about prayer. In the previous passage, we learned that Jesus wants not to be so busy with our service to Jesus that we forget to enjoy His presence. We should not be so busy with service to Him that we forget the reason we fell in love with Him in the first place. One of the ways that we keep our focus on our love of our Savior is through prayer. Here, Jesus teaches us how we should pray. He gives us the tools. He gives us the outline on how to pray. Just like in my garage, I have the tools for exercise, Jesus tells us about how we should pray when we pray. Jesus gives the tools on how to pray. Let’s look at what Jesus says should be in the content of every prayer that we offer up to God.

The first is “Our Father”. Jesus is saying that our prayers should recognize that God is our Heavenly Father. To conceptualize this, let’s think of our earthly fathers. Earthly fathers love and protect us. They teach us the meaning of life through our mistakes and our achievements. They love us even when we are wrong. They teach us that there are consequences of life that we have to deal with. They provide for us. They sacrifice so that we may have. God is our Heavenly Father who does these same things in a grander more perfect way. Our prayers should recognize Him as that Father figure, that wise one who has our best interest at heart, and the one who knows better than we about life and how we should live. Our prayers should begin with the recognition of the way the relationship is arranged. He is Father. We are child. All of our prayers should begin with the recognition that He is Lord and we are the subjects. He is great and we are not. He is universal. We are not. He is all knowing and we are not.

Second is “hallowed be thy name”. Hallowed is old English meaning holy. Holy of course means set apart. Thus, just the mere mention of the name of God invokes holiness. Even his name is holy. Wow! Thus, we must recognize in our prayers that God’s very name is holy. It is set apart and not to be used lightly. It is not a throw around, throw away word. Thus, when we invoke his name, we must be serious. Our prayers that mention God’s name must be serious not flippant. We must come to Him in prayer in reverence. Sure, we can laugh with God and joke around with God in our prayers (He gave us our sense of humor) but we must have serious intent when we pray. We must recognize that we are praying to our Father. When we invoke his name in prayer, it is entering into the chapel. It is time to focus. When we invoke His name in prayer, it is time to set the iPad, iPhone, laptop, and close your eyes and concentrate on the Holy One. It invokes a time of concentration on the One who is Holy.

Next, we must pray in some way, that we are looking forward to God’s kingdom coming (thy Kingdom come). Thy Kingdom Come. That is an imperative statement. It has urgency. Our prayers must incorporate an urgency of wanting God’s Kingdom to come. It means that we want to see God’s way reign supreme. Our prayers must reflect that yearning desire to have that wonderful day when all is perfected.

Next, Jesus says, “Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven”. Jesus is saying that our prayers should reflect that God’s perfect will exists in Heaven where everything is perfect and nothing is there to prevent His will from being carried out. In Heaven, his humble servant/saints do and act in perfect ways and through their humbly given servitude to God, Heaven is made a place of perfect godliness. Thus, in wishing that on earth, Jesus is saying that we should ask God to have His will on earth and not ours and those things are not in alignment with him are brought into alignment here on earth. We must pray in our prayers that God is in control of this thing. We must pray that His will, his perfection that we can’t begin to understand has it’s way. We must pray for what God wants. He sees the big picture. We do not. Then our prayers should not be so presumptious as to be about what we want, what our will is. They should most certainly be about what God wants.

Next, Jesus says, “Give us this day, our daily bread”. This is the part of our prayers where we present our current needs to our Father. Wow, this one is so amazing when you break it down. Jesus is saying that we should ask God to “give us”. To be able to give something to someone, you must first own it. Thus, this “give us” is means that we must recognize that EVERYTHING comes from God when we pray. We are thus praying for God to “give us” something that belongs to Him. He then says “this day, our daily bread”. Jesus is saying that our prayers should be about asking God to “give us” that which He sees as sufficient for us at this moment. “This day”…give us from what is your that which is enough for me right now. God give me that which You see me ready to handle at this moment. “This day, our daily bread”…”Our daily bread”…our daily need. This phrase of “our daily bread” implies to me that we are dependent continuously on God for what we need. It is not something that we come once a lifetime, even once a decade, even once a year, even once a month, even once a year, but daily my friends. Everything comes from God and we are dependent on him to give us what we need for today and EACH day. Thus, when we pray our prayers to God we should recognize our complete and utter dependence on God and that he knows what is best for us, better than us, each and every day of our lives. We must go to Him each day. We must find time and space to exercise our prayer muscles. We must find daily time to make it important.

Next, Jesus says, “And forgive us our sins, as we also forgive those who sin against us.” Here, Jesus is saying that our prayers should be about offering up the things that we have done that have been displeasing to God and asking with an humble heart to remove that from us (being forgiven). He is also saying that we should bring those angers and frustrations with others to him and asking him to help to be forgiving of others shortcomings just as we are yet sinners. Thus our prayers should be humbly demonstrating to God that we are nowhere near his perfect love and that we need and want to strive for that. That we want to be not so proud of ourselves that we cannot admit our wrongs. Not to be so proud of ourselves that we hold on to the wrongs that are done to us. We give it all up to God and ask His holy, perfect help with the things that we go through in this sin-filled world our which we are sin-filled members. We do not harbor things inside and keep them for ourselves when we come to our Father in prayer. We must lay it all out there and give it to Him. We cannot hold back. Our pet little angers and frustrations can’t be held back. They must be given over to our Father and we must trust Him with all things.

Finally, Jesus says, “And lead us not into temptation” Jesus then says here that our prayers must include supplication for God to keep us from sin and that when we fail to obey him that He will give us a way out from our sin. Here, He is saying that our prayers should always end by requesting that God help us to be pure, to help steer us away from those things that are not of Him. Us being in a relationship with God angers the devil and he will try to snatch us away from God through tempting us and us choosing to succumb to those temptations. Our prayers should end with us asking for God’s guidance away from those situations, those feelings, those actions that would lead us down the path that the devil wants us to go – which is away from God. As well, our prayers should end with supplication to God, as our daddy, to deliver us from those temptations to which we have succumb. Take it away daddy. Take it away, Abba Father. Only our Heavenly Daddy can deliver us from that sin, our sin-filled life that the devil wants us to wallow in. Therefore, we end our prayers to God praying for protection from what is tempting us or his protection through delivering us from the sin we jumped into. We should end our prayers in total dependence on the Father in whose lap we are sitting when we pray.

Jesus has given us the tools we need. We must find the time to use these tools, these instructions. Have you ever thought that our prayers are not being answered because we are (1) not exercising – not praying. We can’t have answered prayers if we first do not pray. We have to the tools. We must make time to use them. Also, when I exercise if I do not stretch myself beyond my body’s current comfort zone and walk away from my exercise time sore and hurting, then have I really exercised at all. Sometimes we go through the motions in prayer. We don’t really believe in the power of prayer and so we do not stretch ourselves to truly believe in its power. We just pray perfunctory prayers with no heart and no meaning. If I was God, I would swat those prayers away like so many gnats. Meaningless prayer is not prayer. Shopping list prayers are often our prayers. It is like only doing exercises in the garage that only I like and not the ones that are tough and put me through grueling physical tests. When we present our shopping lists to God only and do not come to Him seeking His will but come to Him as if He were a vending machine, that is another gnat prayer to Him. He swats it away. We must come to Him seeking His guidance and His will. He is not Santa Claus. He is not a drive-thru window. He is our Holy and Mighty Father in heaven. Sure, we present our petitions to Him but we are not to demand the outcomes that we desire. We are to ask the Father to have His will in those situations. We are to seek understanding of His will and to seek the humility to accept whatever God’s sovereign will is in anything that we present to Him. Sometimes we will not understand His answers. Sometimes we will not recognize His answers. However, He is our Father and He knows what is best for us. As children growing up, we do not tell our earthly fathers what to do. Why do we treat our Heavenly Father this way? We must find out in prayer what our Father wants us to do and accept His will. He loves us and we must believe in His eternal experience vs. our limited experience that He knows what is best for us.

Jesus just gave us the tools for prayer exercise in this passage. We must use the tools. We must pray daily just as I must exercise daily for my desire for weight loss to be effective. We must use the tools of prayer presented here just as I must use the tools that I have in my garage. We must use the tools properly for them to be any good to us. In my physical exercise, I must use the tools properly to get the benefit of exercise. I must follow Jesus’ instructions here on prayer to get the benefit and true understanding of what prayer is to be all about. Prayer. Use the tools. Use them properly.

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