I love thinking about prayer in this way, as a spiritual cardio workout. When we pray we are massaging our hearts with the pressure of God’s eternal perfections and subsequently producing in us the enduring praise to the glory of his grace.
In Jonathan Edwards’ book Religious Affections, he…writes: “their grace is the dawn of glory; and God fits them for that world by conforming them to it.”
One of the ways in which Edwards suggests that God does this conforming is through the privilege of prayer… Prayer is used by God in the lives of believers to mold, prepare and affect the hearts of his children “with the things we express, and so to prepare us to receive the blessings we ask.”
Edwards is connecting a pivotal dot here for us. So often we see in the Psalms, the Psalmists bemoaning their respective plights, only to meditate and extol God’s attributes, with the result being a worshipful recognition of divine goodness upon the receipt of answered prayer, whether or not the answer is ‘favorable’ to the petitioner (cf. Ps. 116; 118; 121; 123; etc..).
I love thinking about prayer in this way, as a spiritual cardio workout. When we pray we are massaging our hearts with the pressure of God’s eternal perfections and subsequently producing in us the enduring praise to the glory of his grace. Prayer both prepares and sustains affections. In preparing our hearts it works to mold our imperfections closer to the perfect image of Christ and in sustaining it ignites within us an enduring passionate appreciation and pursuit of the glory of God.
The above, from Prayer is Your Spiritual Cardio Workout, lays out the powerful privilege of prayer. Prayer is not only about making requests to God, praising God, or conversing with God – all great and biblical purposes for prayer. Prayer ultimately draws us to God and shapes us, by the grace of God, into a closer and closer expression of His Son, Jesus Christ (c.f. 2 Cor. 3:18).
One of the great tools for this kind of “prayer cardio” is praying the Scriptures, sometimes called lectio divina. While there are some “formal steps” out there for the practice, I have found great power in simply opening up the Bible (whether in the Psalms or simply where I am in my current reading) and praying God’s Word. The practice allows me to tap into God’s written and revealed heart in Scriptures, allows the words of God to saturate my heart, and opens the door for God to use His Word to speak to me as I converse with Him and meditate in prayer over the Bible.
Our campus church group and parent church have taken this practice and incorporated into our mentor-based discipleship programs. Some may flinch at the word “program,” but we view the program as the skeleton that the discipleship relationship builds on and use as a tool in the process of learning to enter into the Lord’s presence together in His Word through prayer.