Back when I was in high school the wrestling coach used to say that training that didn’t hurt was worthless. When you are running, wrestling, weight-lifting, etc., and you feel the pain of exhaustion, you must fight the urge to quit and push through the wall to get the real benefit of the workout. You must force yourself past the limit of what you thought possible. You must almost treat the pain as an opponent to be defeated. The result is more mental and physical toughness.
Well, that was then and this is now. I no longer train until it hurts, and I have a big gut to prove it. About the only thing I do now to the point of agony is eating. This will change August 1, 2011 because I plan to cut some weight and go over and gradually get into shape running the track at the high school across the street from our home. My son Jeremy wants to get ready for the strength and conditioning workouts the first month of school over in Couer d’ Alene, Idaho. Of course it is delusional for me to think that forty years out of high school at age 58 I will be a good training partner for him. At least he will have a cell phone at the ready to call 911 if necessary.
OK, here’s the application. I just finished Paul’s letter to the Colossians. I noticed a couple references to struggling or agonizing in prayer. For I want you to know what a great conflict (agony) I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh, that their hearts might be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all the riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God…Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently (agonizing) for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God (Col. 2:1-2; 4:12).
Why pray for someone with that kind of intensity? To get into better spiritual shape? To try and bend the will of God? I say no on both counts. Then why? Personally I think it boils down to this: you work hardest at what matters most to you. And for most uf us, the spiritual edification of other believers is not what matters most to us. Remember too that Paul was sitting in prison; and since he could not travel to where the other Christians were, praying for them was about all he could do on his end.
There is no guilt trip or even exhortation being offered here. All I can say is that I have so far to go in my love for the Lord and other people. Can I get a witness?