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Creative prayer while walking

Lynne Baab • Friday April 26 2019

Creative prayer while walking

In my late twenties and early thirties, when I was a stay-at-home mom with young children, I took a walk three times a week, My walks felt like salvation, givine me a breath of fresh air, literally and spiritually, and desperately needed silence in my extremely relational life. In the early years of mothering, I arranged various babysitting ventures to enable me to take my walks. After my kids started school, a priority for their time at school was a walk for me.

During my stay-at-home years, I studied part time at Fuller Seminar, working slowly toward the degree that would enable me to be ordained as a Presbyterian minister. When my kids were 4 and 6, I wrote an essay for a Fuller class where I explored the notion of “thinking in the presence of God” while walking.

My walks definitely involved times of prayer, and I described one prayer pattern last week, where I imagined Jesus in a rowboat on Greenlake, and I handed him my struggles and pain, and he handed me peace, love and joy. But I didn’t pray the whole time I was walking. Often I let my mind wander here and there in this pattern that I called “thinking in the presence of God.”

I felt as if I had a companion in my thinking, as if Jesus were right there, sometimes guiding my thoughts, sometimes entering into my thoughts, sometimes helping me clarify a thought or know what to pray for. And sometimes laughing at the ridiculous things I was thinking! I would think for a while, then pray about what I has been thinking about, then return to this pattern I had developed of thinking in God’s presence.

Of course I wasn’t aware of Jesus’ presence or the Holy Spirit’s guidance every minute I was walking. Some of this ruminating was just that – chewing on the details and pattern of my life like a cow chews its cud. But the awareness of God with me kept returning, in a kind of ebb and flow, that fueled my prayers as I walked.

The fact that I had memorized many verses of the Bible and many praise songs and hymns helped me center my thoughts on God as I walked. That combination – taking time to walk in nature three times each week, letting my thoughts freewheel while inviting God to enter into to them, and bringing scriptures, hymns and praise songs to mind – anchored my life and my faith. It gave me mental and spiritual rest in those relationally intense years of parenting small children.

My friend Steve Simon has written a wonderful book called Holy Walks: Learning and Praying the Psalms. Steve has memorized and prayed many Psalms while walking his dog, and the book recounts how he did that. When the book comes out, some months from now, I’ll be promoting it on this blog.

Steve asked me to write a foreword for his book. I’ve been working on it this week, and the book goes to the publisher next week. Here’s a paragraph from my foreword, relevant to my topic today:

The walking component of Steve’s engagement with the Psalms is significant. Christians have long underemphasized the significance of the body, and I am thrilled that in recent years Christians have begun to rediscover spiritual practices based in the body, including fasting, pilgrimage, walking a labyrinth, and the stations of the cross. Friends increasingly tell me they are finding joy in a variety of bodily positions while praying. The rhythm of my feet hitting the pavement has always enabled prayer to flow easily for me, and I love Steve’s combination of walking while memorizing, pondering and praying the Psalms.

I invite you to discern the places in your life where you “think in the presence of God.” Maybe for you it happens while driving or cooking or gardening. Wherever it happens, do all you can to cultivate an awareness of Jesus’ presence beside you and with you in your thoughts as well as your actions. Think about the connections between God’s presence in your thoughts and the way you’re using your body in that activity. And be sure to nurture the prayers that flow out of your thoughts.

Next week: creative prayer in a foreign language. Illustration by Dave Baab. If you’d like to receive an email when I post on this blog, sign up below (if you’re looking at an individual post on this blog) or in the right hand column (if you’re looking at this blog on a laptop).

Two previous posts about our bodies that you may enjoy:
          Bringing my body to the manger
          My body as a kind of home



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