Ah, the joy of running!
I run because it takes my mind to another place where I can think and pray. Some pray as they walk, as they sit, as they lie down, but I pray best when running as my body settles into that comfortable rhythm. I can sense that my thoughts and prayers take place in an “elsewhere” in a place of peace and heightened awareness.
If you want to try it, I recommend four important elements.
The pace is important. I used to run the streets with a running club and would end up in the cluster of runners going the same speed as me. In theory I could go at my own pace, yet in practice there is often a bit of give and take in those situations. To let my mind fly I have to go at just the right speed.
It was only after an injury, when I was trying to recover after the loss of fitness, that I discovered how important to me is the length of my stride. At first I was moving with an unsatisfying short stride I would describe as a jog. To get to the “elsewhere” I need to run, I need that brief moment of flight between one foot taking off and the other landing. Only as fitness was returning and I found myself running again did I realize what I had missed. Only then was my mind flying apart from me again as I ran.
Silence is the third vital element. The problem when running with a club was that chatting would take place as the group surged through the streets. When I am running I like silence in my head. I prefer to run alone. It is not a problem to be surrounded my traffic noises, but there must be no talking companion and no earphones bringing anything in. Enjoy the silence of your mind. If you are normally plugged into something you will find the internal quiet strange at first, but be patient, make friends with the internal quiet.
Fourth on my list is rhythm. I can listen to my breathing settling into a rhythm so regular that it becomes the ticking of the clock of my running time. Different runners have their own preferences. I breath in over two breathes and out to one. I find this is regardless of whether I am on the flat or going up and down hills. I sometimes count as I breathe, one, two, three.. in, in, out.
And then, when I am at that point when I leave my body both resting and at the same time flying in the pace and stride and rhythm, I start to pray.
I pray and think at the pace of my rhythm, unhurried. Away from interruptions and unable to be distracted by tasks needing attention, now left behind in my office, in my other life, I talk to Jesus and listen to him. I fellowship with the Spirit and use the ancient ways of inviting the flow of His prescence through me. I allow that flow and abandon myself to it. I might recite prayers or scriptures. Repetition is good in the mix of prayer forms, not thinking that by them I might be heard (Matthew 6:7), but finding a rest and a sense of connection to Jesus in them.
I meditate on scriptures and ponder what I should preach. I pray over my life and those near to me. I pray for the church I serve. I pray for the churches across that city whose prosperity I must seek (Jeremiah 29:7).
If you are a runner, try it. Don’t forget to listen for His voice. Christianity is true and it works!