Praying on a bike

Our loving neighbour Sister Alice was another person who disapproved of my participation in the Across Canada cycling tour. It was during our buffet lunch before Christmas that I told her about the tour and my intention to take part, and she echoed my wife in suggesting that I shouldn’t, saying that the tour would be too much of a challenge for me. It was perfectly understandable that the 81-year-old senior would have concerns about my wellbeing should I embark on the long journey which she considered hard and risky. It would have been reassuring to have her endorsement, but I appreciated that the disapproval was out of love and concern.

It was heartening that when I told Sister Alice in April that I had signed up for the event despite her well-meant advice, she said that she fully respected my decision and was happy that I committed myself to something that obviously meant a lot to me. I was even more grateful that, a couple of weeks later, she gave me a copy of an article called Praying on the run, on which she wrote “on a bike” under the words “on the run”, which clearly expressed her meaning that what the article says about running is applicable to my biking trip. I also saw this as a gesture of her support to the trip.

I read the article and found it to be an excellent piece. The central idea is that the “great-to-be-alive” feeling that comes with regular, vigorous exercise stimulates the brain centre and determines our spiritual receptivity to God and our fellow humans. As per the title, the “regular, vigorous exercise” the article focuses on is jogging, but the message applies to other kinds.

According to the article, there are three main reasons why a regimen of jogging can be beneficial to our prayer life:

1. It is helpful for the total disciplining of our lives. 2. The astringent effect of physical exertion provides a stimulus to our intellectual and emotional faculties, resulting in a more perceptive and warmer devotional spirit. 3. A great deal of pleasure is derived from jogging, leading to the general sense of well-being that accompanies the conditioned body.

The writer argues that our “spirit, soul and body” are interrelated aspects of our being. The weakness of our body is the cause of our inability to meditate and lift our hearts in prayer. Despite a thousand lovely thoughts, we often fail to act. The point is supported with the following quotes:

“The spirit is willing, but nature is weak,” said the Lord. (Matthew 26:41)
“Hell is paved with good intentions.” (Samuel Johnson)

So we need to move from the good intentions to the real starting line of physical and spiritual fitness. Rejuvenating the body through physical exertion will invigorate the soul, bringing us the created closer to the Creator. Such effort is necessary for, as these lines quoted from The Kneeling Christian says:

“God will not do some things unless we work. He stores the hills with marbles, but he has never built a cathedral. He fills the mountains with iron ore, but he never makes a needle or a locomotive. He leaves that to us. We must work.”

The close relationship between spirit, soul and body and how the improvement of the body leads to that of the others are ideas which dawn on me these days when I physically exert myself every day to get ready for the cycling tour. Very often, I pray on a (stationary) bike and reap the benefit of it.

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