Years ago, I remember hearing an older member of our congregation who would pray every week before Sunday school: “Lord, bless these exercises we are about to go through.” I would cringe every time I heard it, thinking, this is more than just up and down, going through the motions. And I was right. Church should be more than an exercise. But God has been showing me something lately about going through the motions.
Prayer is good for its own sake, even if you aren’t feeling it. You don’t have to feel it in order for it to be effective. You may say, “Yes, but I don’t want to just go through the motions.” I ask you—do you think an Olympic athlete feels like going out to practice every day? No. Sometimes they’re tired or distracted or just aren’t feeling it. But they go through the motions. And going through the motions trains their body to act on its own.
In the same way, going through the motions can sustain you, even when your feelings try to convince you not to pray. “You’re tired,” my feelings told me this morning as I nodded off for the third time. “God wants you to get some rest, don’t you think?” Yet I persisted, even though it was gong through the motions. That’s how I train. If you never exercise, you never get stronger. Exercises stretch you. They hurt you. And they make you grow. We need some spiritual exercises.
So I decided to get up and pray in the shower. That worked. It woke me up. It also made me alert to the Spirit, who reminded me of Isaiah 40:28-31:
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint and to him who has no might increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
Then I thought, why not combine the exercise of prayer with physical exercise. Two birds, one stone. It’s good for your body and your spirit. Plus, the physical exercise keeps you awake during those early morning prayers. In 1 Timothy 1:8, Paul says, “for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” Then he says I 1 Corinthians 9:27, “I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”Why not try it? Give yourself a physical workout along with your spiritual workout. Whether you’re feeling it or not, it’s good for you. And pretty soon, you’ll find that you’re not going through the motions anymore—you’re being moved by the Spirit.