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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Exercise your ‘prayer muscle’


It was great to watch the Olympic trials and games.  They provided a time of national pride, as well as international joy.  Olympic heroes teach us many lessons in dedication, persistence and courage.  We can mirror these qualities in our own lives, whether in athletics, in our work, or taking care of our family or home.

I love to swim.  And even though I am a rather slow swimmer (I certainly am no Michael Phelps!), I feel a great sense of accomplishment when I finish my mile.

Many feel that swimming can be an important element of a healthy lifestyle – me too, although not in the way that you might think.  While swimming is known as good aerobic exercise, I value it for another reason – it gives me a time to quietly pray.

During those laps, I rethink my life.  I ask myself if I am really loving, kind and forgiving in my relationships with others.  As I swim, I am reassessing if my reaction to disappointments is with anger or humility.  Am I dealing with the stress I feel, or just moving it around in thought much like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic while it was sinking?

It’s not easy to face your own shortcomings, but the coolness of the water and the silence when my head is underneath, keeps me thinking.  I feel swimming not only uses my arm and leg muscles, but during these work-outs, I am developing my “prayer muscle” too.

Duke University professor and physician, Dr. Harold Koenig, M.D. has conducted and researched studies on the effect of prayer on health.   In his book, The Healing Power of Prayer, he wrote, “Over five hundred studies have now documented correlations between religious practices like prayer and better health.  I have also seen the powerful effects of faith in the lives of my patients, and what a tremendous difference prayer has made in their healing – physical, emotional, social, and spiritual.  There is power in prayer – there is little doubt about that” (p. 19).

One day I had a very upsetting conversation with a friend.  What he said angered me.  I was very stressed out, my stomach was doing flip-flops and my body was reacting in very unhealthy ways.  I really wanted to “calm down” and pray about this, but I kept running the conversation over and over in my head.  I decided to go for a swim.

I knew the pool would keep me away from the phone and the urge to call others for advice or “badmouthing” my friend.  I also knew it would be quiet and I could think rationally and pray.  I did.  I realized I had been totally out of line and overreacted.  When I got out of the pool I was better – physically, emotionally and spiritually – not just because of the swim, but because of the prayer.  I was exercising my prayer muscle during that swim.

You can exercise your prayer muscle too – praying is a great thing to do while running, walking, swimming or biking.  You can even do it at home in a chair.  You may not win any gold medals – but then again you can gain the “prizes” of friendship, peace, happiness and even health!

When not swimming, Tim Mitchinson spends much of his time as the media and legislative liaison for Christian Science in Illinois.

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Thomas (Tim) Mitchinson
Thomas (Tim) Mitchinsonhttp://www.csillinois.com
Naperville resident, Thomas (Tim) Mitchinson, writes on the relationship between thought, spirituality and health, and trends in that field. He is also the media spokesman for Christian Science in Illinois. You can contact him at illinois@compub.org.