Strength is a skill, and exercise should rightly be viewed as training. You are training particular muscles and developing particular skills in each session…if you’ve got a plan, that is. One of my favorite training protocols is especially good for building strength, and it’s called “greasing the groove.” This is a concept borrowed from fitness expert (and kettlebell guru) Pavel Tsatsouline, where you focus on one (maybe two; no more) movement for a series of weeks. During that time you do maybe one or two reps several times each day, about six days per week.
The idea is for you to stay fresh and strong, NEVER training to failure, and develop the skill and the muscle memory to perform that particular movement with proficiency. The net result is that you do get stronger in the process automatically, all without the soreness and crazy fatigue that accompanies many strength workouts.
We’ll use pull-ups as an example. Let’s say you can do a maximum of four pull-ups. Well, hang a pull-up bar in your pantry (or bedroom, or bathroom, or whatever) doorway, and every you walk by it, you do one pull-up with perfect form, contracting all of your muscles, etc. If you do that faithfully, you’ll have performed several pull-ups by the day’s end without actually “working out,” though you’ll get stronger in the process. Soon your pull-up numbers will go up and you’ll be doing six to eight pull-ups before you know it.
So, I got to thinking about how this protocol might transfer to prayer. Paul urges the Thessalonians to “pray without ceasing” (1Thess. 4:17). I don’t think that means we can’t talk to other people or watch TV as much as it means we ought to have an ongoing attitude of communication with God.
Well, it could very well be that Paul is just talking about greasing the prayer groove.
Think about it: What’s better? A workout where you exhaust yourself maxing out on pushups and you end up totaling about forty five reps? Or doing three, perfect-form pushups every thirty minutes or so that you’re in your office at work?
Well, neither is necessarily “better” (though personally I’d much sooner choose the second option for a dozen reasons). Rather, they accomplish different things.
But here’s the reality: Most of us are not as faithful in prayer as we know we should be. And many of us excuse our prayerlessness by citing our calendars: “I know I need to pray, but I just don’t have time to do it the way I’d like, so what’s the use?” But if we do what Paul is suggesting, having a spirit of prayer and visiting prayer frequently throughout the day, we quickly run out of excuses.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that having a dedicated time of prayer each day is bad any more than it’s bad to schedule your workouts. In fact, just sprinkling in prayer time throughout the day does not allow for the sweetness of time spent with God that typically accompanies a healthy love for Him. But I am arguing is that not having a dedicated prayer time is no excuse to fail to pray altogether. Just because you can’t gather as a family around the dinner table is no valid excuse to give up eating altogether. As GK Chesterton said, “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.”
So what if we prayed throughout the day? Try “greasing the prayer groove” in order to train those prayer muscles and tell us how it goes!
Have you read…?
- The Sweetest Blackberries Always Grow Among the Nettles
- Feasting and Staying Lean
- Who Are We Thanking?