Anybody who prays knows that we all have to pray “on the go,” so I don’t think you should ever be apologetic about where and when you pray, because the more creative you are about finding ways to pray, the more possible it is to satisfy that sometimes baffling and always enchanting admonition of Paul’s “to pray without ceasing.”
This morning, with the skies clear and the temperature just above freezing, I did something I haven’t done in a while: run to work. It’s a nine-and-a-half mile route along the Hudson River and then through busy Manhattan streets, right past the windows of Good Morning America in Times Square and finally to our offices, our miracle on 34th St., in the shadow of the Empire State Building.
Lately on my runs I’ve used the time to pray through a few verses of a psalm, the words on a slip of paper I hold in my gloved hand. This morning, though, it was really dark, the clocks having just been turned back. I looked to my slip of paper and remembered that Psalm 51 starts out with, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving-kindness…” But what came next? No way could I see those words in the moonless dark of the pre-dawn. What would I do for the next nine miles besides huffing and puffing? Those fragments of psalms take my mind off of the drudgery.
Then I remembered a story we ran in the magazine by Jeff Grabosky, who ran 3,700 miles across the country. Talk about challenges! How did he do it? Early on the route, jogging through the California desert, the sun blazing and his feet feeling “like they were being barbecued on the superheated highway,” he remembered how praying for others took his mind off himself. He looked down at his phone and checked a message: There it was, someone asking for prayer.
I went through the list in my head of people who needed prayer: a buddy from church who’s struggling through cancer treatments, a family out in California who lost their dad from a sudden heart attack, a colleague whose son is in the midst of a health crisis. The list was endless and as I concentrated on it, focusing on sorrows that weren’t my own, I stopped counting the miles.
I arrived at the office before anyone was here. Made some tea, and looked to my slip of paper with Psalm 51: “For behold, you look for truth deep within me, and will make me understand wisdom secretly.” On the road and off it. I had a bowl of cereal, checked my emails, then headed to the gym to shower and change, ready for a good day of work.