Prayer as an Involuntary Muscle

I remember learning about voluntary and involuntary muscles in school. The teacher explained how some of our body parts function without our conscious effort. She went on to explain how our hearts beat, our eyes blink, our lungs inhale and exhale without any help from us. They simple do their God-given function because that is what they do.

Some of our muscles work without us even thinking. What if our prayer life resembled such a muscle? What if we lived a life of prayer, in constant communion with our Heavenly Father? What if, when faced with a trial, we automatically prayed for wisdom, strength, and God’s help?

What do we do instead though?

Personally, my first reaction to trouble is to complain. I throw a pity party. Often times I whine to my husband or a friend who might empathize. In search of answers, I might search Google, Pinterest, or Facebook for hours before turning my problem over to my Creator.

I’m not alone in my grumblings.

In the book of Exodus, when the Israelites were wandering in the desert with no food, they automatically responded to fear by complaining rather than crying out to God for help. It’s a natural response: I’m hungry. We’re out in this wilderness alone. No map, no GPS, no fast food restaurants. We have been wandering for days.

“If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”

Exodus 16:3

But God heard their grumbling (Exodus 16:11), and instead of striking them dead, He provided for their needs.

The Israelites had forgotten how God delivered them through the Red Sea on dry ground. The part where He destroyed all the Egyptians; it’s not even on their radar.

  • My child wakes up vomiting, my first thought: Grumble grumble…”Why me?” Not “Lord, You are sovereign. Bring healing to this child and give me strength to care for her today with compassion.”
  • A wreck on the interstate brings all traffic to a standstill. I whine, “Come on! We’re late!” When I should I bow my head in prayer for the people involved.
  • Unexpected medical expenses force a tightening of the budget. I grumble inwardly when I should be thankful for our family’s health and ability to pay those bills.

Complaining is a natural reflex when life brings troubles or fears. I am no different than those Israelites. For most of us, complaining is like an involuntary muscle that moves without thought. Like blinking, my reflexive response to a problem is to whine about it. Not to pray.

But when life brings misfortunes and we are intentional to pray, then God works powerfully. Just as He provided manna for the children of Israel, so also He provides exactly what we need in His perfect timing. We must come to Him with all our worries, cares, and concerns. Then, we will see His faithfulness. He always comes through, often in ways we would have never imagined.

A friend offers to bring a meal when we’re nursing a sick child.

A card comes in the mail with money that we desperately need.

After a hard day, our children go to sleep early, and we have a few extra hours of quiet.

In this life, the problems will not disappear. Life will still be hard. We may still be hungry for more. But He hears our prayers.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:6-7

God desires that we pray. He longs to witness our hearts turn to Him for help because we trust Him. When our hearts long to complain, let us endeavor to keep our mouths from speaking and our fingers from searching the internet. Let us whisper a prayer instead:

Oh, Holy & righteous Heavenly Father, help us develop praying muscles. Help us to turn to You in our troubles, remembering You alone are God, and You care for us. Make us stronger each day. Thank You for Your faithfulness. We know we can trust You.  Amen.

My prayer is to be intentional about buffing up my prayer muscle.

To spend time throughout the day in prayer. That prayer would be on my lips as I cook breakfast, wipe bottoms, and teach math. That prayer would be in my heart as I discipline my wayward child and hug her when she repents.

Right now I too closely resemble the Israelites, but God is working in me. Lord willing, one day, through sanctification and God’s grace, prayer will become as involuntary to my life as breathing and blinking. For now, I will pray.

“Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray.”

James 5:13a

Do you have a prayer reflex? What has helped you develop a heart of prayer rather than grumbling lips? Any favorite verses?

 

 

 

Photo by Paul Green on Unsplash

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