I love to take a good walk or go on a invigorating run. I know not everyone feels the same. But, what if I told you that you could do something for your spiritual health WHILST improving your physical health. At. The. Same. Time.
Are you sold?
Here are 4 different spiritual practices that I like to incorporate into my workout regime. They probably wouldn't work for a weight lifting session or a dance class, but are perfect for when you have 20 minutes (or the recommended 30+) to get out and jog. (or walk!)
One quick disclaimer: I absolutely think it is fine to go for a walk and just not think about anything, or to jam to some tunes (what am I saying?) while you run, or to just talk with your friend or partner as you jog. You certainly don't NEED to incorporate a spiritual practice into your exercise time. And yet, there is something special about communing with God while you are going through the activities of your day. Surely some of you read the Bible on the train, or pray while you are washing dishes, etc...
This is just an opportunity to broaden both your exercise experience and your spiritual disciplines. And let's face it: being efficient is satisfying.
In the Moment Prayer
Tell God what you like about that tree over there. Thank him for the fresh air you are breathing (or trying to breath depending on how fast you're going). Let that stream of consciousness flow out into prayer. If you start thinking about your sister while you're running, pray. If you start over analysing how that meeting yesterday went, pray. If you feel a cloud hanging over you, pour out your heart to your God. Sometimes, it is helpful to pray while we are moving instead of while we are sitting still. This can occupy our bodies and help us to just get out what we want to say to our God.Sometimes my running prayers are super random, “God, this is a great day! … Can you please give me joy in the tasks I have to do today that I'm dreading … You did a great job making that flower! … Also, please be with my mom – the flower made me think of her.” Sometimes they are full, and deep, and heavy and by the time I've finished my run, I am exhausted, but feeling free because all of my cares have been cast on the Lord.
Memorise a Verse
This is great to do on a walk – with a buddy or by yourself – but is also doable on a run. Just pay attention to what's going on around you! Get a little card and write a verse on it. Choose a powerful, but somewhat brief verse. Start with the first phrase... “But he said unto me...” and say that 5 times.
Add the second phrase … “But he said unto me, 'My grace is sufficient for you...” Say that 5 times. Keep adding phrase by phrase until you are saying the entire verse.
Suggestions: “But he said unto me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.” I Corinthians 12:9,
“Don't be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6
This one is weird. I'm almost embarrassed to suggest it because I don't have anyone that I can blame credit the idea with. I just kind of started doing it while I was running and it became my “thing.” If its too crazy, we'll just pretend I only had 3 suggestions and forget about this one.
In the New Testament, Paul and the author of Hebrews, compare the Christian life to a race. We are urged to run with discipline, to persevere, to train well and to FINISH the race.
Jogging up a hill is hard. I dread the hills, but I tell myself, “Emily, you WILL make it up this hill, even if you have to walk or take a break to catch your breath. You will get to the top.” And then I immediately try and think about the hill I am currently climbing or have recently climbed in life (parenting issues, insecurities, relationship difficulties, and other struggles) and I say to myself, “In the same way that I will make it to the top of this hill today, God will see me through to the top of the parenting (or any other) hill I are climbing because he promises that he will never leave me or forsake me (Deuteronomy 31:6/ Hebrews 13:5) and that his grace is sufficient for me (I Cor 12:9) (See what I did there? If you memorise a verse on Monday, you can USE it on your Wednesday run... and in life, which is the point!)
I usually try and sprint the last stretch of my run (thankfully I wait until I turn the corner and my house is only 4 houses from the corner, but still... sprinting!). I am pumped to finish the run and get home. I want water, and a hug from my 2 year old, and to shower. I really want to shower. And I think, “When my race here, on this earth, is finished, I want to SPRINT to Jesus. I want to be ready to see him, ready to be clothed in perfection, ready to be showered in glory. I don't want to wish I could go back to the hills and run them again, or wish I could have run differently. I just want want to FINISH this race and have Jesus say, “Well done.”
See if you can use your walk or run to envision the race of the Christian life and to take tangible illustrations (not from a sermon but actually from your own life) and see that making it to the top of a hill can be a lesson about how we deal with difficulties in our lives.
Let's move on before I sound super crazy.
Theme Pray For a Friend
Call a friend. Say, “Hey, want to go for a walk and pray with me? It's going to be great.” First, you pick a theme. Then every time you turn a corner (or set a timer for 5 minutes or something) pray about anew topic. The theme could be personal or it could be way out there. Sometimes the “out there”suggestion are the ones that change us the most because we don't usually pray beyond ourselves and our own sphere. Some ideas:
- Start working through the countries of the world, A -Z. You could use a resource like Operation World's Country List. (http://www.operationworld.org/countries-alphabetically)
- Pray for all the ministries in your church (youth group, parenting class, prison ministry, etc...)
- Pray about big, current issues. Pray for God's heart to be your heart. Pray for God's kingdom to come.(ie: sex trafficking, domestic violence, asylum seekers, persecution, the poor and hungry, etc...)
Try one or more of these out sometime soon and feel free to comment with suggestions that have worked for you or ways that you tweaked the ideas above! Happy exercising!
Emily has worked in student ministry and is a Personal Fitness Trainer and Health Coach, who loves bringing those two passions together. She is also a wife to one of the coolest dudes around and mother to the other coolest dude in town.