I took up road cycling a few years ago and truly enjoy this form of exercise. I try to work in two to three rides a week as my schedule permits. Cycling gets me moving, and away from what can at times be a sedentary work life. I find it physically challenging and mentally rewarding. In addition to the cardio and muscular-skeletal benefits of cycling, it’s amazing what a 20 to 30-mile ride can do for one’s mental and spiritual health. Which brings me to the topic of this blog post. Prayer has become a companion practice to my routine of cycling.
This practice began somewhat by happenstance and was related to geography. As I rode the trails, streets and roads of our community I would take note of who I knew that lived nearby. “Oh, that’s Joe and Pam’s home”; or, “Don’t Ken and Beth live over there?” Observation then led to something more. How might I pray for that couple, that family, that homeowner? Over time my intercessory prayer practice grew to include not just those in the home or business I was riding past, but others who lived in that quadrant of the city, township or county. It’s now second nature to pray for the members of our congregation and community as I come into some general proximity to their domicile. And, for those who live further out – as I make trips east, west, north or south, I try to extend my prayer covering to include the outliers, for whom a cycling pass-by might be a bit more infrequent or unlikely.
In addition to intercessory prayer, I find that cycling provides the solitude, time and focus for me to pray through other things as well. As I mull over a sermon topic or text, I will pray about it across the miles. As I reflect on a personal challenge or concern while on a ride, why not use that time to pray about it? There’s something in the rhythmic movement of a long ride that is conducive to such deeper thinking.
Which causes me to question: Might similar such repetitive routines that occur over a longer duration of time also be opportunity for concentrated prayer? Might such practices be a healthy corrective to our oft disjointed, interrupted patterns of thinking and behaving? Could we turn a regular routine into a partner prayer practice, and in doing so combat the distractions of life today?
I know persons who pray as they walk. When I was in a work position that required a lot of driving, prayer was often how I spent the time – with the radio turned off. Do long distance swimmers and runners find themselves similarly mentally occupied? How about the gardener who is active tending and cultivating soil and plants, but also praying? Do you pray while you mow the lawn? Are you a craftsman or craftswoman? Do you pray while your hands are also molding and creating?
It occurs to me that my most successful (if such a word applies) times of prayer have often been these kinds of times – when I’ve coupled a prayer focus with another practice (necessary or voluntary) that facilitated concentrated attention and practice over time (cycling, driving, walking, mowing, gardening).
What about you? What do you already do that might be or become a prayer coupled practice? Make a list of those longer duration activities in your life and consider how prayer could be part of that time.