Sit-ups, leg lifts, and squats: how can I pray at all times when I’m supposed to be exercising?
I wonder how the people in Thessalonica responded to St. Paul’s letter teaching them to pray without ceasing. (1 Thessalonians 5:17–19) Did they pray walking to the well? Repairing their tents? Wrapping a stubbed toe?
What does constant prayer mean to me?
I go straight to God every morning upon rising (well, almost every morning). It’s a formal timed prayer slot, because I need that commitment to frame the rest of my day. Jesus, I depend upon you. There’s no substitute for concentrated time with God. I pray a morning offering: Good morning, dear Jesus; this day is for you. Please bless all I think, say, and do. That about covers everything, doesn’t it?
My day begins, and my mind wanders from God in all things. A flurry of activity grabs my focus, and praying constantly flies out of my mind. I’m busy planning, doing, working, cleaning, cooking, catching up, texting, etc. Soon it’s bedtime, and I realize I forgot to be aware that God was with me all day, smiling, watching, helping, and loving. An Examen helps me see where the day went. I ask forgiveness for thinking I could do it all on my own.
Resolving to pray more frequently, and inspired by St. Thérèse of Lisieux, who believed in doing even the smallest actions with great love, I devised a little way to turn my thoughts to God during daily exercise. I count my repetitions with Jesus.
Here’s how I do it:
Jesus, you are the ONE.
I run TWO you.
Holy Trinity, one God in THREE,
You I long FOUR.
Forgive me iF-IVE spoken rashly today.
Bless the SICK (SIX), so they may find relief.
Your promise is HEAVEN (SEVEN).
Thank you for all I EIGHT; bless those who go hungry.
NINE, you are so fine!
I promise to turn to you of-TEN.
When I need to alternate leg lifts, I simply use thank you as the half-marker between each rep. Or sometimes I use the best short prayer: Jesus. Perhaps in strengthening my muscles, I’m building strong prayers too.
Yesterday a friend introduced me to the term audio divina. Instead of lectio divina, I pray with music in this adaptation. Listening to music while I do aerobic exercise is a wonderful way to help me pray without ceasing. I bet if St. Ignatius had owned a cell phone, he would have incorporated music into his Spiritual Exercises.
Adaptation is the secret to making prayer exercises our own. Have fun with your prayer today!
How do you pray without ceasing?
Photo by Jonathan Borba on Pexels.