I imagine you have experienced sore muscles this winter. After shoveling heavy, wet snow or after skiing the first time for the season or after reaching across the auto to clear the windshield of stuck snow flakes---ohhh, those aching muscles. That happens, of course, because in our usual routine we do not call upon certain muscles regularly. Then, when we make unusual movements doing winter tasks, those unused muscles are called into play, and they complain! I think they actually tighten and compress when unused, and the use stretches them, way past their comfort zone. We have to give them a little attention to coax them into calm again, like rubbing sore areas, or using a heating pad.
Something similar happens with our faith. We can go long periods of time in a routine that does not call upon certain aspects of our faith. Then, when we experience unusual challenges or needs, those unused faith claims are called into play. For example, we don't think much about death until someone we care about is seriously ill. Then we remember that God is the Lord of life and victor over death, and we turn to God for healing. By then, however, our understanding of how healing comes is muddled, not having been exercised recently. We're not sure what to ask or whether asking will work. Our prayers may be tentative and fueled more by hope than by faith. And we end up accepting whatever happens as God's will, uncertain if our prayers had anything to do with it.
As with winter work muscles, spiritual muscles perform better if they are exercised year-round. Regularly speak to God about healing and wholeness: about healing the resentment you feel at work, about reconciling the relationship you messed up with ugly words, about strengthening your body's antibodies to fight off a cold or flu quickly, about removing your prejudice so you can see others as children of God, about giving to those you care about the most important gift---God's self and presence, about protecting life and sending a gentle death when the time comes. When exercising this faith muscle daily, we build confidence in healing and in perceiving what kind of healing is needed. And when the unusual challenge comes, we know how to pray.Lord, you have provided our souls with so many truths and lessons, such incredible spiritual status and spiritual gifts. Enable us to exercise them all in our daily lives. Fill our hearts with delight in your word and way, and lead us into the disciplines that will strengthen our weak muscles. We would be ready, God, to partner with You in the face of any challenge or need that comes our way. Amen.