It is fairly well accepted that a change of scenery, a new activity, can shake up our thinking; derail our trains of thought; get the wheels out of the grooves, the ruts they’ve been stuck in. My daughter tells me of research that suggests that this is why I keep forgetting what I went upstairs/downstairs/outside/inside for: going through a doorway triggers a change of setting, a change of gears for our brains, so whatever our intention was before we went through it gets shifted out of the picture. More positively, the change can shake the stale crumbs out of our routines, even out of our prayers. I like walking with prayer. It seems to allow greater freedom to my wandering mind, my seeking, searching soul, to notice, make connections, listen; and in the stumblings – metaphorical and physical – there are opportunities for the Holy Spirit to grab me and save me and set me straight (or let me fall).
If mind-emptying contemplation is more your thing, then there is still good reason to get moving. Paradoxically, exercise can do a good job of replacing sitting still and silently. Repetitive motion, routine movements, can occupy the parts of our thinking that would otherwise be concerned with distracting mundanities or intractable problems.
So when I began training for the bishop’s bike ride, it seemed like a great idea to take my daily prayer out with me on the road.
Well, it sort of works. Honestly, the daily office podcast that I usually listen to gets pretty drowned out by the rush of wind past my earbuds (and I’m not even going that fast!) and the traffic on the road next to me.
On the other hand, having looked again at the six “principal kinds of prayer” listed in the Catechism of the Book of Common Prayer (pp. 856-7), then maybe with all the repeated cries to God
– of petition for divine assistance and protection (motorist friends, make room for bikes when passing, please),
of penitence (if your child’s school bus was late yesterday, that might have been my fault – sorry…),
of thanksgiving (for patient bus drivers, for example),
of intercession (especially for the safety of all the children who are travelling those same roads during Bike to School Month),
of praise and of adoration (especially when passing the lake) –
maybe this cycling thing is a means to an extended prayer life after all!
This Friday is national Bike to Work day (http://www.punchbowl.com/holidays/national-bike-to-work-day). I don’t work Fridays, so I’m going to try it on Thursday instead. Prayers for safety, good sense (mine especially), and good weather are welcome. Also, prayers that I will have sufficient left to cycle back home at the end of the day 🙂