My niece was determined to run our local 10K this year. She is a novice runner and it is a fearsome course — a mile-and-a-half hill starts at mile 4. So I offered to walk the route with her and share tips born of long experience.
I offered to walk, not run. I won't say my running days are over, since my father picked up the sport at age 64. But let's just say that I'm not in shape to run 6.2 miles without a few weeks of training.
So we set off on a humid day. We talked now and then, to make sure we were at a sustainable pace, but there were long periods of silence as we put one foot in front of the other, up long hills and through long flats, on roads covered with fine coal dust.
And in those silences, something happened. I fell into a pattern of intercessory prayer — the kind I haven't done in maybe four years. In time with my breathing, I went through a long list of folks.
I had forgotten what that felt like. It's not that I had stopped praying when I stopped running, nor did I pray only when running! But that particular, whole-body, low-distraction prayer was a particular gift for a particular time of life.
There are other particular circumstances I've found are conducive to prayer. When I had a more-or-less-regular commute, I prayed on the bus each morning and evening. And during the months I lived near a fairly deserted beach, I found there was no better place for praise.
Now I pray my way around town. I don't think there's a block that's without an immediate need that I can mention to the Almighty on the fly.
So here's a thought: It is good to revisit old patterns of prayer, and sometimes good to revive them. There are things we set aside for a time, but the return can be sweet.
It is also good to shake things up sometimes, to be intentional about praying in new and possibly jarring places. And even to seek them out, if necessary. May I suggest prayer in a Greyhound station?
And it is good to look for the places where there are new opportunities for prayer. I started interceding while running because it was the only private time I had at that point in my life. I started praying on the bus because there wasn't anything better to do during my commute.
And it is very good to pray in your own place.
Your school, for example. You may already have favorite spots, but perhaps some exploring is in order. Many schools have some accessible high spot from which the whole can be viewed — climb that tower! Or pray in the boiler room — it probably needs it. Or walk the perimeter of your property, finding the points at which school and community connect, or should. Find the right sort of prayer for each. Make it a regular part of your visits.
By the way, my niece finished the race in the merest fraction under an hour. I don't know whether she prayed on the way, but I do know that at the end she prayed in gratitude that she survived — and for her grandfather, the runner.
|Melinda R. Heppe, In Trust's contributing editor, is pastor of two Lutheran churches in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania.