The runner’s wisdom for a meaningful prayer life
A Reflection for the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
“Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to usand persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus,the leader and perfecter of faith.” (Heb 12:1-4)
Other than the occasional Turkey Trot or 5K, I am not a runner. When I read today’s passage from the Epistle to the Hebrews, however, I couldn’t help but think of my dear friend who has successfully completed 15 marathons. I asked her about what keeps her going mile after mile, race after race. Her salient bits of advice, “Never make a big life decision when running up a hill” and “You don’t train for races to feel awesome, you train to know you can endure the challenge,” are easily relatable to my relationship with God.
I am currently in week seven of the 12-week “Finding Christ in the World,” an Ignatian retreat rooted in the Spiritual Exercises, created by the Institute for Advanced Jesuit Studies at Boston College. Through my daily prayer I have experienced firsthand how “exercising” my prayer life has strengthened my relationship with God at its core. Some days my prayer life feels profound. Other days, not so much. But I know that by using my senses through thoughtful listening, looking for God in all things and opening my heart to Jesus, I am able to trust that his divine love is ever-present, even when I sin.
Challenging times are actually some of the best times to put one foot in front of another, look up to God and tell him your burdens and what you may need.
While my friend’s advice is to not make life decisions while running up a hill, I argue that challenging times are actually some of the best times to put one foot in front of another, look up to God and tell him your burdens and what you may need. My guess is that the hill will feel a bit less steep if you are in conversation with him. It takes challenging times to wholeheartedly appreciate all of God’s graces—both big and small—as we run through life. It is during those times that he wants us to speak freely about our needs, transgressions, gratitude and anything else we want to talk about. By truly “keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus” during the ups and downs we experience, we can ultimately cross the finish line and enter willingly into the kingdom of God.
As I continue my everyday retreat and practice my prayer life, I know that I am training my faith to be at the forefront during good times and bad. So the next time you are finding it difficult to persevere during the race—whether it is a marathon, the loss of a job or loved one, financial hardships or everyday challenges—remember to “keep your eyes fixed on Jesus” because he is running right there beside you.