Iron man (part 1)

The Christian life is a race (2 Tim 2:1-6   1 Cor 9:24-27). Not that we compete against one another but, like running a race, it requires dedication, discipline and hard work. Just because we do not have to work hard (or in fact lift a finger) to gain God’s love and acceptance, does not mean that having it we are not active, focused and highly motivated to see the kingdom of God break out. Worship, God’s word and prayer are all powerful spiritual disciplines to be mastered so putting some structure on that can be helpful.

Since praying 6 impossible things before breakfast  had given my prayer life a bit of a steroid injection I decided to develop another idea that came to me recently. I heard about an early morning prayer meeting one church was doing called “iron man”. What a great idea! Suddenly you want to be at it. It succeeds in characterising prayer not as some would have it – easy, boring, dull, wimpish, but as God sees it; challenging, exciting, and requiring great strength of character to accomplish. The faint hearted need not apply.

Another thing I like about the Iron man idea is that the time taken to complete it or the place you come seems pretty irrelevant to me. When I hear someone has competed in an iron man my first response is not “where did you come?”. Just taking part and completing is amazing enough.

But the iron man is not just one thing it’s three – swimming, cycling and running – so I thought why not have worship, bible reading and praying as the three components to a spiritual triathlon. They are what we tend to do together anyway as we spend time with God. It also turns out that the iron man is the hardest of roughly four triathlons of differing lengths:

Distance\mode Swim km Bike km Run km
Sprint .750 20 5
Intermediate/Standard/Olimpic 1.5 40 10
Long Course/half iron man 1.9 90 21.1
Ultra Distance/Iron man 3.8 180 42.2


My first idea was that the swimming distances could be hours of tongues, cycling chapters of bible and running  times 10 could equate to minutes of prayer.


Distance\mode Tongues/worship hours Bible chapters Mins of prayer
Sprint 45mins 20 50
Intermediate/Standard/Olimpic 1.5 = 1 hour 30 40 100 = 1 hour 40
Long Course/half iron man 1.9 = 1 hour 54 90 211 = 3 hours 31
Ultra Distance/Iron man 3.8 = 3 hours 48 180 422 = 7 hours 2


I noted some other details for clarity:

  • Time taken to complete is irrelevant.
  • No more than a total of 10% of chapters can be from psalms or proverbs.
  • Worship in this case means speaking in tongues, singing songs or speaking out praise to God.
  • Worship music can be played throughout if wanted.
  • Prayer must be out loud.
  • The bible can be read in your head

I also gave some thought to doing it with others. After all, you can do a triathlon in a team and I bet it helps to have others with you to set the pace, encourage, create a slip stream etc. When doing some or all of it as a team you can:

  • Speak in tongues and worship together at same time.
  • Take it in turns to read bible chapters out loud (or paragraphs).
  • Take it in turns to pray out loud

I then decided to give the sprint a go. I’d need around three hours plus some kind of prayer plan (ie what I am going to pray about for 50 mins). I’ll let you know how I got on.


PS. Some scriptures about racing

Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. 1 Cor 9:24-27


You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. (ESV) 2 Tim 2:1-6



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