Running And Praying Go Together

Running And Praying Go Together April 1, 2024

Most of us have times when it’s hard to pray. In this article, I want to share some tips that I learned from running that help me pray when I don’t feel like it.

Praying is like Running

During COVID, I discovered running with the Nike Run Club app. It was very helpful and motivating to have a virtual coach “in my ear” as I confronted this new world of running. I am a runner–at least, that is what Coach Bennett from the Nike Run Club tells me when I go out for a run using the Nike Run Club app on my iPhone. His argument is that if you run, you are a runner, which seems like a pretty solid argument to me.

Even if I am running a pace that will never qualify me for the Boston marathon, I can still grow and improve as a runner. One of the scheduled runs was called “Run When You Don’t Want to Run Run.” It is actually one of my favorites, because it is hard for me to get motivated to run (or bicycle, or hike, or stretch, or lift weights, or do anything physical really).

This is the “pray when you don’t want to pray prayer method.” Now, maybe you’re one of the lucky angels who don’t need to read this article. Maybe prayer is always easy for you. For the rest of us poor sinners who may need motivation from time to time, here are three tips from running that can help your prayer life.

Lay Out Your Clothes the Night Before

Since our modern world has a plethora of distractions, we suffer from decision fatigue. On the one hand, it is great that we have 250 cereals on the average grocery store cereal aisle. On the other hand, this abundance of options is one of the reasons the average person has 33,000-35,000 decisions to make each and every day. Making the decision to get up and exercise can be one of the hardest ones. One tip that fitness experts give is to lay out your running kit the night before if you want to run first thing in the morning. Then, when you get up, you can avoid adding to your decision fatigue but just putting on your running shoes and kit and getting moving.

We can and should do the same thing for prayer when it becomes difficult for us. If you are planning to pray first thing in the morning, think about your routine. Take stock of what you need to get going, and prepare as much as you can. Maybe the night before, you open up your Bible to the passage you are going to use as well as your journal, and leave them both on your nightstand. That way, when you get up in the morning, you are ready to go and have fewer excuses to make. You no longer have to procrastinate about praying, since you are all set to start.

Running can help you pray | Courtesy: Pexels.com

Do Five Minutes

Another key exercise tip that has helped me is the rule to “do five minutes.” If you really don’t want to keep going after five minutes, you can allow yourself to quit. First, though, you have to force yourself to start and do at least five minutes. For most of us, in the vast majority of situations, this will be enough to get us going and we are very likely to complete the workout we had planned. If, after five minutes, we still just want to quit, it may be a good sign that our body is telling us we should not be exercising that day.

You can then know that you at least tried, and are teaching yourself to listen to your body and avoid injuries.After all, if we injure ourselves, it will most likely harm us in the long run and may end up keeping us out of the exercise loop even more..

Something similar can help with prayer. When you really don’t feel like praying, sometimes you just have to force yourself to start. Sit down, pray for five minutes, and see how it is going. Maybe you have begun the rosary and you realize that you can invest another 10-15 minutes to finish it. You no longer are stuck behind the activation energy needed to start prayer, and have at least gotten past the issue of procrastination..

Get a Coach

While I have never made the step to hire an actual coach for running, the Nike Run App has done wonders for me when I have used it. When I was regularly using it to train myself, I got up to running 13-14 miles by myself on a Saturday. I ran a full half-marathon and was quite proud of the achievement. The coaching, done virtually through the app, pushed me much further than I had ever planned to go on my own.

In our spiritual life, the analogous action would be to look for a spiritual director. Seeking the guidance and counsel of a priest or someone experienced in the spiritual life can help us tremendously as we embark on and develop our own prayer life. It is well worth the time and effort. I have been helped by my spiritual directors over the years and am grateful that I now have received the opportunity to guide others through the journey of life and the spiritual endeavor  of growing in prayer and holiness.

If you don’t feel like praying, but you know that you should, rest in the knowledge that God is looking to touch your soul and wants to bring you closer to him. Don’t push him away but instead take the necessary steps to grow in your relationship with him. When it’s hard to pray, run.

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About Fr. Nicholas Sheehy, LC
Fr. Nicholas Sheehy was ordained a Catholic priest in 2013 for the Legionaries of Christ. He has been involved in youth work including missions, retreats and apostolic outreach in Germany, Italy, the United States and Central America. He is passionate about the New Evangelization and formation for young adults and married couples. He is a spiritual director and retreat director, offering marriage preparation and marriage counseling through the Divine Mercy Clinic and Family Center. He is currently Executive Director and Chaplain of the Newman Center at St. Philip the Apostle Parish in Pasadena, California. You can read more about the author here.
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