Exercise is important in order for us to keep the muscles in our bodies strong. When we neglect those muscles and do not keep them strong, they become weak and can waste away. Just as we need to strengthen our physical muscles through some form of exercise, we also need to strengthen our spiritual muscles through prayer. Prayer is important in keeping our faith strong, keeping us focused on God, and keeping us from temptation. Our spiritual life is only as healthy as our prayer life.
It is God’s will that we pray, not just once in a while, but continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18). God wants to hear from us and He wants to speak to us. We need to be in prayer every day, spending time in His presence. Now, there is no magic formula for prayer, just as there is no magic formula for keeping your physical muscles strong. But, there are guidelines that can be followed. In my work as a personal trainer, I created workout plans for people, guidelines for them to follow for strengthening their muscles. In Matthew, chapter 6, Jesus gave us guidelines for exercising our spiritual muscles through prayer.
The first thing that we must do in prayer is to give God praise. Jesus said that we should start our prayers in exactly that way – “Our Father in heaven, holy is Your name” (Matthew 6:9). God is worthy of our praise at all times so, when we want to spend time with God in prayer, we should first offer Him praise. Praise Him for His faithfulness, for His grace, His mercy, and His love. Praise is the first and most important part of effective prayer.
When we pray, we should also ask God for forgiveness. Before we present our requests to God, before we tell Him the things on our hearts, we must be sure that our hearts are right before Him by confessing any sin. When we ask God for forgiveness, when we confess our sins, He will forgive our sins because He is faithful and just (1 John 1:9). But we must also forgive others who may have hurt or offended us. Jesus said that we should ask God to forgive our debts, just as we have forgiven our debtors (Matthew 6:12). When we forgive others, we are also forgiven but, when we harbor unforgiveness, we will not receive forgiveness from God (Matthew 6:14-15).
When we have given God the praise that He deserves and have made our hearts right with Him by confessing our sins, we can then present our requests to Him. We can bring those requests and needs to Him with confidence that He will hear them and will answer our prayers in accordance with His will (1 John 5:14-15). Exercise your body to keep your muscles strong, but also be sure to exercise your spiritual muscles. Prayer is powerful and it is what we need to keep our spiritual muscles strong.