I was on the treadmill when it happened.
I wasn’t always a physically active person. I was one of those kids that endured gym class and never bothered with team sports. I loved sweets of all sorts (and still do). And I was always a bit on the chubby side—at least for as long as I can remember. My body image issues don’t let me remember a time when I was completely happy with the way I looked. What I do know is this: on a summer’s day in 2009, I stepped on my scale to convince a disheartened friend that I was the heavier one. And when I saw the number on that scale, I knew things had to change.
I lost 60 pounds. It can sound severe, but I assure you it was a “two steps forward, one step back” process. There is no secret to losing weight: Exercise more and eat healthy with controlled portion sizes. As long as a person is consistently burning more calories than they consume (and they don’t have weight-related medical issues), they will lose weight.
In order to help me estimate how many calories I was actually burning while exercising, I used a heart rate monitor watch. The first watch was a clunky, ugly monster that made me look like I was under house arrest. In order to take my heart rate, I had to place the index finger and thumb of my opposite hand on its two metal sensors. I would wait for it to sense my pulse. Sometimes I would continue to wait. Sometimes I would theorize that the lack of pulse meant I had died and simply not realized it. The next watch was the same brand, with the same metal sensors, but a “petite” design which fit me better.
At some point I fell away from using it. I think it had to do with getting into sports where I couldn’t stop and put fingers on my watch every 3-5 minutes—sports like Muay Thai and Jiu-jitsu. But lately, as the scale creeps back up, I find myself back to my old calorie counting ways.
But now, I have joined the fitness tracker movement.
The same company that made my beloved watches now makes a fitness tracker wristband that will monitor my heart rate constantly during exercise. And with a daily goal programmed into it, watching the goal bar slowly fill up throughout the day is motivating.
And so, I was on the treadmill one recent morning when I got to thinking about my beloved tracker. And about exercise. And about the amount of time and energy I used—and still currently use—to think about my body image. And I thought to myself, “What if I invested that amount of time and energy into my prayer life? How strong would my relationship with God become?”
What if I was using a prayer tracker instead of a fitness tracker?
The health benefits of prayer are undeniable. Prayer alleviates anxiety (Philippians 4:6); it’s appropriate for all occasions (James 5:13); it’s a natural part of being a disciple (Acts 2:42; Colossians 4:2; 1 Thessalonian 5:17); and it was modelled by Jesus—the Great Physician himself (John 17:1-26).
And so, I suggest an experiment.
- Choose a length of time: One day, one week, or one month.
- Set a daily goal: 15 min., 30 min., or one hour.
- Each day make yourself a paper/cardstock bracelet.
- Every time you pray, write on the bracelet how long you prayed for (you can even make yourself a little progress bar and colour it in as you go).
- Try to achieve your daily goal.
- You are invited to call your fancy bracelet a Faithbit.
- Find some friends who are cool enough to also make Faithbits and motivate each other! (Bonus: when people ask you what you’re wearing on your wrist, you get a free evangelism opportunity.)
I’m not quite at the point yet where I am logging just as much prayer as physical activity, but I’m getting there. I’ve already backed away from a couple of my sports commitments in order to make time with God a higher priority. And the more time I spend with God, the more I’m realizing this: How I look matters so much less than who I am in Christ.
“I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
my whole being shall exult in my God;
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”
Isaiah 61:10 (NRSV)
Grace and Peace, Susan Mattinson