Have you ever watched athletes compete in a triathlon? It’s a test of physical and mental stamina with three parts: Swim–Bike–Run, in that order. A Sprint Triathlon has the shortest distances and can often be completed in less than 90 minutes. An Olympic Triathlon has longer distances of a one mile swim, a 25 mile bike, and a 10K run. And the granddaddy of them all, the Ironman Triathlon, has a 2.4 mile swim (often in the ocean), a 112 mile bike, and a marathon 26.2 mile run, all of which could take 15 hours or more to complete.
It’s fascinating to watch people in all shapes and sizes, ages and athletic ability pushing themselves beyond what they thought they could do. If you watch the Ironman Triathlon on TV, you’ll hear stories of personal victory. Amazing stories of ordinary people overcoming hardships, honoring fallen friends, and helping loved ones with disabilities achieve their dreams. Make sure you have a box of Kleenex handy.
Not everyone will compete in an actual triathlon, but all of us are running the race of life. And we’re all in need of spiritual conditioning.
Just as a triathlon has three legs of the race, spiritual conditioning has three disciplines that, when developed together, become an integral part of our transformation into spiritual athletes. What are they? Fasting–Prayer–Praise (FPP)
In a triathlon, the first event is the swim. This is the hardest for most people. Like swimming, fasting can be daunting if we don’t know much about it. Fasting is a way for us to come before God and surrender something of value for a period of time. It helps us to focus intently on God and pray fervently to Him. When the pangs of want and need arise, we use those pangs to direct our thoughts to God.
People generally think of a food and drink fast, where you eat nothing and only drink water for “X” number of days (ie 1 day, 3 days, 7 days). Fasting doesn’t have to be giving up food. It could be giving up coffee or soda for a week. It could be fasting TV for 7 days and reading the Bible instead. It could be giving up dessert or wine or anything that we “need” to get through a hard day. Whether you’ve fasted before or not, think of something that would be a challenge to live without, and give it up this week. But instead of being bitter about it, turn to the Lord in prayer and praise, and let Him fill your needs.
The second leg of our FPP Triathlon For The Soul is prayer. Prayer is a conversation with God. It can happen anywhere at anytime. There’s no right or wrong way to pray if we’re opening up to Him and being honest about our thoughts and concerns. God wants us to come to Him. He wants us to ask for His help and opinion. He also wants us to accept His answers, even if they’re not what we asked for.
Jesus gave us an example of how to pray in Matthew 6:9-13, which is often referred to as the Lord’s Prayer. We don’t have to use specific words if the prayer is from our heart. Jesus’ outline for prayer was: 1) Praise God for His holiness and sovereignty; 2) Confess sins and ask forgiveness; 3) Bring requests and ask for provision and protection; 4) Praise God for His strength, guidance and deliverance.
Let God be an integral part of every day. Talk to Him. Ask Him questions. Listen to His response. Pray Scripture to Him. Cry out to Him. Trust what He says. That’s heartfelt prayer.
The final stage of our FPP Triathlon is praise! Praise isn’t just about giving thanks to God. It’s about rejoicing. Regardless of the circumstances we face, God never leaves our side. Praise in the process! We know trials will come. But praise takes the sting away. It lifts our spirits. It shifts our focus from obstacles and hardships to God. Let loose in praise! Sing out loud. Even if you don’t have an angel’s voice, your voice sounds beautiful to God. Raise your hands and lift your eyes to heaven. Listen to praise songs as you get ready for work, drive to the store, or run on the treadmill. Worship God wholeheartedly.
When we combine fasting with prayer and praise, we begin a new phase of our spiritual conditioning. We gain strength as we grow in intimacy with God. We’re demonstrating our love and trust. We’re letting go of things that keep us from Him. And our time with the Lord takes on a new excitement. A new joy.
God has created us to run the race with Him. Let’s run to win.
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-25
May I pray?
Lord, we need spiritual conditioning. We’re running the race of life but many of us are winded and ready to quit, or at least sit down for a while. Help us to grow stronger as we begin to pursue You in new ways. Give us the courage to fast something this week as we turn our focus to You. Meet us in our secret place and talk with us in prayer. Fill us with Your mighty presence as we let go of everything that holds us back and begin to praise You wholeheartedly. May we take our conditioning seriously so we can finish strong. Amen.
Q4U: What’s something you can fast this week to help turn your focus to God?