My feet pounded a steady rhythm on the pavement. A drop of sweat teased my eyebrow. My tired legs ached but my mind refocused on my conversation with God.
A few years ago, I started running regularly to develop healthy habits, but my running time eventually became my prayer time, and it was the healthiest lifestyle choice I would ever make. I knew prayer was important. I just didn’t realize how much it would change my life.
Last fall I sat across from a sweet mentor and friend at breakfast, trying to swallow, along with my mouthful of pancakes, what she had just told me.
“Prayerlessness is the purest form of idolatry,” she said.
The Real Reason We Don’t Pray
It’s not that we set out with the intentions of not praying. Most often we mean to pray. But the danger is when praying stays in the I-meant-to phase. When I don’t pray, it’s because something else has stolen my affection. Busyness. Social life. Work. Plans. The reasons are endless, but the greatest detriment to my prayer life is myself.
We are always seeking what we think is best. We’re after a temporary awe and wonder that can’t satisfy us. In that search, we try to become self-sufficient and live with God on the back burner. Slowly, we stop praying.
We forget that prayer is essentially just life with God.
That is not the way prayer is often viewed. Whether consciously or subconsciously, we treat prayer as a wish list or something we check off of our daily tasks. For Jesus, prayer was the center of His life. The gospels give numerous examples of Jesus praying, and the disciples noticed. They asked Him to teach them how to pray (Luke 11). Jesus stayed in constant communication with God. I want to do the same.
It’s easy to let our expectations of what prayer should look or sound like hinder us from praying. No formula, eloquent phrases, or specific words are necessary. When we reframe prayer as the ability, the opportunity, and the gift, to talk with the Creator of the universe, we can simply come to the Lord and pour out our hearts.
That’s why running has given me new prayer rhythms. When you’re dripping sweat and gasping for breath, you have no room for pretentious prayers. I like being able to shoot straight with Jesus. My prayers are messy, not the nice, neat, and folded ones we so often believe are the requirements for coming to Him.
It is me talking to God—straight from my heart to His. I’m just talking about my gratitude, events I’m excited about, happiness, and more. I pray with a sense of desperation for challenges I am facing and people who are going through struggles. Sometimes my prayers are slightly dramatic in nature: “God, I am DYING and CANNOT make it up this hill.” You get the point. Not only do I talk to Jesus, but He reveals things to my heart in those times. Prayer is just as much listening as talking.
I began noticing that the days I skipped running, I missed having that solid time with Jesus. Thankfully, the beauty of prayer is that it can happen anytime. Anywhere. God isn’t limited by specific times. My running prayers eventually flowed into my everyday life. Grocery shopping, doing the dishes, and getting ready for the day didn’t seem so mundane anymore.
Mark Batterson says, “When you live in prayer mode, you live with holy anticipation. You know that coincidences are providences. Any moment can turn into a holy moment.”
My prayer time that began with the soles of my shoes made me realize the necessity of constant connection with Jesus for my soul. It draws you into a deeper awareness of God’s presence, changes your perspective, and so much more. Prayer doesn’t have to be complicated or intimidating. Just talk to God, straight from your heart to His. Start now, and don’t ever stop.
Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. (Col. 4:2)