A Training Program to Help You Pray Like Jesus
I’m trying to establish regular rhythms of aerobic exercise.
I want to build a resilient heart and limit the odds of cardiac problems later in life. Historically, I only run if I can go to a local state park, on the weekends when I’m in a good mood and the weather is nice… or when my wife tells me I’m stressed and need to run it off.
To shift my mindset, I decided to learn from the best example I could think of: an ultra-athlete.
Enter Finding Ultra by Rich Roll, the memoir of a man who went from alcoholic to ultra-athlete in his 40s. Surely, he’d have some good advice.
The Ultraman competition is a grueling triathlon covering mindboggling distances across the Big Island of Hawaii. 6.2 miles swimming, 261.4 miles on a bike, and 52.4 miles of running over three days to finish.
I couldn’t imagine what it would take to be on that level of fitness. Surely, I’d have wreck myself week in and week out to follow this path of transformation. Even less appealing: I’d have to add more to the mental list of things I should be doing.
To which I say, “N O W A Y… noooo way.. what is this garbage.”
I have enough to think about without adding a perennial state of dreading the next workout.
Maybe that’s why I have yet to develop a consistent rhythm of running.
But then Roll described the training regimen his coach put him on. One year of Zone 2 running. What is this Zone 2 running? It’s running at 60-70% of your max heart rate—a sustainable pace intended to push your heart without wrecking your body. This was very different than my usual strategy of going as hard as I can for as long as I can.
I strapped on my trail shoes and heart rate monitoring watch, and I gave it a shot. And I learned that Zone 2 training is challenging in a completely different way than I thought… the pace is painfully slow.
I’m not kidding. I thought I’d be at least running, but now I’m humbled by every middle schooler that passes me on the trail and by having to walk up hills to keep my heart rate low enough.
But as Rich Roll’s coach Chris Hauth put it, “The prize never goes to the fastest guy. It goes to the guy who slows down the least.”
I tend to look for quick solutions, and then push as hard as I can to achieve them. I want transformation now. Zone 2 training has a longer and slower rate of transformation. But it is sure because it is sustainable and can be practiced consistently. I may not be going the fastest, but I am going everyday.
I’m also trying to establish regular rhythms of prayer.
I want to build a resilient heart and limit the odds that I seek other enticing distractions. Historically, I only pray if I’m in nature, on the weekends when I’m in a good mood and the weather is nice… or when my wife tells me I’m stressed and need to pray it off.
Yikes… am I really that consistent?
To shift my mindset, I decided to learn from the best example I could think of: someone who walked closely with God.
Enter Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, the way the truth and the life, both fully God and fully human. Surely, he’d have some insight into the life of prayer… but my hesitation is the same with running: I’m going to have to add more to the mental list of things I should be doing.
Maybe that’s why I have yet to develop a consistent rhythm of praying.
Turns out, the similarities don’t stop there. Just as my preconception about endurance training was wrong, my preconceptions about the way of Jesus are often wrong as well.
So, preconceptions aside, let’s see what Jesus has to say about prayer.
In Matthew 6, when asked point blank about how to pray, Jesus said:
“This, then, is how you should pray:
‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’”
That’s it. Eleven short lines.
Jesus gave us a prayer that is simple. Memorizable. I can take it with me where I go. And in its simplicity, this short prayer—known as the Lord’s Prayer—reveals the story I’m in and orients my heart to align with the story God is writing in history.
How do you live a life that’s rich in prayer, that reflects the story you’re in, and is oriented in the direction God calls you to regardless of what life throws at you?
You need a training program that helps you to show up day after day, consistently and sustainably.
So, start the training program Jesus offers. Try these practical next steps:
- Pray the Lord’s Prayer (and only the Lord’s Prayer) for one month.
Every time you think of praying, pray those eleven lines. I know, this sounds crazy in our novelty-dependent culture, but this is the way that THE Way taught us to pray. Take him at his word.
- Bring your body into the Lord’s Prayer.
On a daily basis, find a quiet and private place to pray (Matthew 6:6-8). If you’re physically able, bow down with your head on the floor in reverence to your king. And pray the Lord’s prayer slowly. Breathe deeply in between each line, giving space to be mindful of every word and trusting the spirit to work through the word to shape your life.
- Reflect on the Lord’s Prayer over time.
Chris Hauth (the endurance coach) encourages athletes to be mindful and ask the following questions after each training session. “How did it feel, what did I observe, how do I feel this week compared to last week.” Bring these questions into your prayer practice.
- Improvise on the Lord’s Prayer.
After you’ve established a regular rhythm of praying the Lord’s Prayer. Try improvising off its structure. Let each line prompt extemporaneous prayer on the same topic.
For help, download this free guided Bible reading plan on the Lord’s Prayer, created by The Crossing. And listen to Crossing pastor Dave Cover demonstrate praying the Lord’s Prayer on his podcast Christian Meditation for A Bigger Life.
Our repeated rhythms shape who we are and the direction of our lives. We need consistency and sustainability to implement new rhythms in our lives.
What would your life look life if you used The Lord’s Prayer as the consistent prayer to shape your outlook? I don’t know exactly, but I trust the word of my king. Praying the way he teaches us trains our heart to his desires so that whatever comes our way, we can run with endurance.