Running with God
An Inspirational Essay by Theodore J. Sanborn - November 7th, 2010
All Scripture Quotations from NIV unless otherwise noted
Is Multitaskng While Running a Good Idea?
What conversations do you carry out in your mind while you run? How about something like this: "Just. Get. Over. Next. Hill."
What about prayers? Have you experimented with praying while you run?
A Rasmussen report published in 2005 concluded that 47% of the people in the US pray every day or nearly every day. Maybe a sampling of runners would result in a higher percentage, as they tend to have significant chunks of solitary time separated from distractions, alone with their thoughts, and surrounded by nature.
A friend recently shared a powerful experience of praying while running. He left his house before sunrise for a long distance run and had been praying deeply about his family as he ran. He looked up in awe at a magnificent display of constellations and suddenly began shedding tears of happiness for observing such a beautiful sight and wept in gratitude for the blessings of his family at home.
The majority of people in our culture claim they don't have time to run, and the other half say they don't have time to pray. Although multi-tasking usually lowers our level of performance for each activity, the idea of praying while running might actually help us more fully achieve our goals in both areas.
I am a faithful runner who aims to hit the road about three times a week. In June 2009, I completed my first half-marathon, which took place on a series of rolling hills in Fairfield, Connecticut. I can't imagine how I would have completed the training, or the race itself, without my running conversations with God. Do you remember the movie, Chariots of Fire, in which Eric Liddell declares in his Scottish accent, "When I run, I run fast, and I feel God's pleasure!" For me, when I run, I run slowly (about 10 minutes/mile), but I also feel God's pleasure. I believe he created us to run and we feel the happiness that he intended for us when we fulfill that part of our purpose. When we choose to engage him in prayer during our run we might achieve an even higher state of happiness Ė a natural state of joy in the presence of God without the persistent intrusions that might otherwise exist when we pray.
ACTS Prayer Model
Any type of prayer could help you reach this state of contentment, but you might discover that the ACTS model fits your running routine.
A for Adoration (Praise): Think about Godís majesty, power, and goodness. The Psalms are full of beautiful descriptions and images that you can freely appropriate.
C for Confession: Admit to God your faults. You might want to make sure that this part of the prayer, if not the whole prayer, is said silently, so as not to distract other runners.
T for Thanks: Give thanks to God for what he has done for you Ė health, family, etc. You could fill a complete Ĺ marathon thinking of things to be grateful for once you put your mind to it.
S for Supplication: Finally, after recognizing God and your own condition, you are now spiritually prepared to make requests to God for specific types of intervention.
I like to break my run into four roughly equal parts, focusing on one letter of the prayer for each part of the workout. For example, three miles per letter in a twelve-mile workout. This breakout allows sufficient time to focus on each aspect of the prayer and also defines a set of milestones for the run. If you follow this model, you encounter an opportune convergence half-way through your run when you shift your prayer mode to offering thanks. I often begin this segment by thanking God for getting me this far! Then, when you are on your last leg, you shift gears again, and begin asking for help. An interesting observation in my experience is that when I offer petitions for myself, I begin feeling the pain of my run, but when I am focusing on requests for others, I don't feel my own pain.
If your mind drifts during each component of the prayer, don't worry. This might be an opportunity for God to give you a response or for you to clear your mind of other thoughts. When you realize you have drifted, just pick up where you left off or start the next phase.
Footprints on the trail
Sometimes when I run I think I hear footsteps coming up behind me Ė a plausible assumption given my speed. When I turn around I donít see anyone. I assume that the sound results from the echo of my footsteps bouncing off the houses, amplified by the damp air of dawn, but I like to think that itís actually the sound of God running by my side. He is a silent running partner, waiting for me to engage him in conversation.
Take him up on his offer. Say a prayer during your next run and witness the results.
"The Sovereign LORD is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights."
Theodore J. Sanborn is the author of What's That Noise? Listening for God in a Busy World
July 2012 - "A Runner's Belief: God is His Coach" in The New York Times
"Ryan Hall rocked slightly, palms up, closing his eyes or singing softly to lyrics projected on giant screens at the evangelical Bethel Church..." Complete Article