Running as spiritual practice (I pray as I run.)
Ask people what they think of running or jogging, and you get a variety of responses. Some people hate it, some people love it. Some people think it’s a great… in theory. Some have tried to become runners, only to be sidelined with injuries, lack of time, or boredom.
I’m one of those people that once thought of running as a means to an end. In my case, I ran as a youth so that I could be in better shape to play real sports like baseball or soccer.
Somewhere between the timed fitness runs in gym class as an elementary school student and now, I have grown to love running. Running has become not only a hobby and exercise, but a spiritual practice.
Have you ever wanted to have more time to pray, to think, reflect, and listen, but you just are too busy with the crazy lifestyle we have created for ourselves? We have all been there at one point or another. Most people that don’t run usually only associate pain and agony with such an activity, but it has truly become a time and space for connection with the divine in some most amazing ways.
I like to think of running as intentional time where I am able to stretch the physical body in ways that connect with my humanity and the world around me. Breathing becomes so focused and rhythmic that it may resemble meditation. When we run, we force oxygen throughout our bodies, reminding ourselves of the life-giving breath of God that is within all of us.
I pray as I run. Sometimes each minute or mile becomes a unique prayer topic or a person I want to be mindful of. Sometimes I pray aloud (weird guy talking to himself as he runs), sometimes I pray silently.
I listen to the world around me: the birds in the branches, the breeze blowing through the trees, running of the waters. For those who live in the urban jungles, perhaps there are other sounds that are life-giving!
Running has become a daily reminder of the dedication and discipline that is needed in order to achieve goals, and ultimately to enjoy such an activity. Like many hard and challenging activities in life, running becomes so much more enjoyable and life-giving with the more time we put into it.
Running can lead to community. Now, running can be quite solitary at times as well (which has its own spiritual benefits), but there are great communities of runners around the world. What better way to experience God than with others over a shared activity?
This may not inspire anyone to become a runner anytime soon, but I do hope that we are inspired to look for God in the ordinary during this season of Lent. And if you are ever in the area and want to go for a run, just give me a call!
Rev. Jeff Binder is Pastor of Valley Community Presbyterian Church (USA). For more information about Valley community, contact us at valleycommunity.org, or call 503.292.3537.