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Breathe at the Top

By Coach Nick Vuicich

Spiritual Training Cycle: Unity (wk. 5/13)

I hate Fran. Can we still be friends?

I don’t hate Fran because it is difficult. I hate Fran because I always forget to breathe at the right time. “Breathe at the top” is all the coach tells me for 45 thrusters. And I need the reminder, because I constantly forget to breathe when it is easiest and most efficient.

When I became a coach, we spent a lot of time talking about breathing. Breathing is important as our muscles need oxygen to work but breathing also regulates our heart rate. When you breathe is also important. Breathing is best when the load is at its lightest, because you’ll need it when the load is at its heaviest. There are a couple of reasons for this: 1) it is easier for your lungs to expand. 2) Holding your breath under tension creates a more stable core. It is best to take a breath at the top of the movement.

Prayer works like this also. Almost everyone prays, even atheists. That’s amazing. But when you pray also matters. Most of us tend to pray when things are the hardest. Pressure is building. We got bad news from the doctor. Our marriages are in trouble. We tend to pray most when we are under the most tension. And God honors those prayers. But these are Hail Mary prayers and very few games are won with Hail Mary passes. When we pray at the top, that is when tension is lighter, our prayers feel different and they’re more effective.

When we only pray under tension, we tend to feel guilty about it. This affects our prayer life and attitude towards God. Praying at the top, before the tension comes, allows prayer to change our attitudes and our perspective. Praying for your marriage when things are good has a bigger impact than when you’re sleeping in separate rooms. Praying in the morning before the email, commute, meetings, and annoying co-worker is more effective at reducing stress than trying to pray in the midst of it.

We need to develop the habit of praying at the top. Because praying when tension is at its lightest prepares us for when it’s at its heaviest.

Praying when tension is at its lightest prepares us for when it's at its heaviest.

Praying at the Top

I want to help you develop the habit of praying at the top.

1) Think differently about prayer. Prayer is not just about asking God for things. Prayer is engaging in a relationship with God. It’s about telling God the most important things going on in your life. It’s about venting and griping. It’s even about sharing your weird self with God. Prayer is also about listening, being still, and crying when things are too much.

2) Create a moment that belongs to prayer. Prayer is easy to avoid, even for pastors. If you’re going to create a habit of prayer, you have to create a time, place, or moment that is regularly dedicated to prayer. I work from home. Between coffee and touching my computer goes prayer. Sometimes it is for 5 minutes sometimes 30. But before I get to work – I pray. Prayer could be during a morning shower, coffee before the littles start stirring, or the first part of a morning commute. If you do not dedicate space to prayer, you will never develop the habit of prayer.

3) Have a plan. You may not stick to it, but having a plan is critical to success in any endeavor – especially prayer. Talking to God can feel overwhelming. Sometimes our minds go blank. Other times they won’t shut down. That is why having a plan is crucial. Great news – there are lots of plans out there. I like to read 3-6 verses and then pray about what stood out. Others like the ACTS model (Adoration – Confession – Thanksgiving – Supplication (fancy word for asking for stuff)). Sometimes I pray on my fingers, the first three are for my daughter, wife and myself. Then I assign the last two to other things that are important at the time. I touch each finger as I pray. You can also use the Bible App to help you pray. They now have prayer prompts. The exact plan doesn’t matter, just that you have one. I encourage you to try them out and find what fits you.

Questions for Reflection:

When has prayer felt easy and refreshing to you? What made that situation different?

What intimidates you about a regular prayer life? What excites you?

Who in your life inspires you to pray more? Schedule time with them and hear their thoughts on prayer.

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