For most of my life I have been involved in long distance running. As with many a runner, my commitment was sporatic and changed from season to season. A few years ago all that changed and I began to take up running quite seriously. I joined a running club and met a number of people who were also interested in running and together we pursued common goals, usually a specific race. At the beginning of this year I spoke with a friend who is an exceptional runner about being my coach and working with me to develop a training regieme.
Recently I was reading 1 Timothy and a phrase suddenly stood out to me: ‘…train yourself to be godly’ (4:7). As I read this verse a question came into my head: “Do you have a training program for your spiritual life?” I certainly had one for my long distance running, but suddenly I began to wonder how the concept could be applied to my prayer life and my spiritual life as a whole. Prayer is not isolated from the other dimensions of our spiritual life, so as I begin this blog, I want to take a ‘big picture’ look at our spiritual lives.
What would a training program for our spiritual lives even look like?
As I’ve reflected on my running training, here are a few ideas about a spiritual training program:
- it needs to be specifically tailored to YOU. A generic ‘one program fits all’ isn’t going to be effective because it can’t respond to where you are at in your spiritual journey.
- it needs to have some voluntary accountability. In my running program I was accountable to my coach to tell him whether I did each workout; we agreed that I would pay him a certain amount of money every time I skipped a workout.
- it needs to include feedback. Every month my coach and I would get together over lunch and discuss how the training had gone the past month and where it was heading the next month.
- it needs to have some goals in mind. This one is more difficult. In running the goal was time and distance related; in our spiritual lives such measurable goals are not so easily determined.
As much as we’d like to have a ‘presto-chango’ training program for our lives the reality is that we need to have a longer term view of our spiritual life. To continue the running analogy, we need to be in marathon mode rather than a sprint mode.
I’d encourage you to take one of the four ideas above and spend some time thinking specifically about how it applies in your spiritual life.