Exercise can bring many physical and psychological benefits. When we add a layer of prayer, we can benefit spiritually.
We pray in church, before our meals and on the eve of surgeries. Some people pray before they play bingo. But what about praying when we exercise? Many people find that praying during exercise is the perfect place to contemplate, meditate and clear their minds.
Scripture talks about both spiritual and physical exercise. In 1 Timothy 4:7b-8, we hear, “Train yourself for devotion, for, while physical training is of limited value, devotion is valuable in every respect, since it holds a promise of life both for the present and for the future.”
I ask, why can’t we do both? After all, the ideal is to pray always.
Integrating Prayer With Exercise
Prayer and exercise are a perfect fit. We as Christians want to be good stewards of creation, and our bodies are a major part of that. When we exercise or work out for our physical health, our spirituality can be woven into any routine. Exercise brings a repetition and rhythm that can complement prayer perfectly. My friend Sister Sharon breathes in and out using the “Jesus Prayer.” She inhales deeply to “Lord Jesus Christ, son of the Living God,” and exhales praying, “have mercy on me, a sinner.”
She uses it when she walks, and says it can also be shortened to a simple “Jesus, mercy.” Many people work out on treadmills or weight machines, and pray a simple sentence like “Bless me, God, and all my friends.” I pray the Taizé refrain, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom,” as I do my daily morning stretches.
Some people run or power walk, praying short mantras like “Jesus, heal me!” For those who like to start their exercise with prayer, there are free daily prayer meditations, such as Pause+Pray, which offers short prayers and reflections.
The Rosary Workout ranges from beginner to advanced levels, along with different amounts of Rosary prayer. Author Peggy Bowes, a Catholic, graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1988 and served nine years as an Air Force pilot and health and wellness consultant.
We have been called for years to exercise. Many of us remember the physical fitness trend that started in the 1960s with President John F. Kennedy.
Christians have always been challenged to keep our bodies, our “temples of the Holy Spirit” (see 1 Corinthians 6:19), in good order. Exercise can bring many physical and psychological benefits. When we add a layer of prayer, we can benefit spiritually. Exercising is just as important as taking our pills and seeing our physicians. It is a healthy call to be faithful stewards. Praying during our workouts can be a powerful blend of motor and faith skills.
I chuckle at what the philosopher Michel Montaigne noted, “To strengthen the mind, you must harden the muscles.” It seems to go with Scripture, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).