By Rick Hamlin
Prayer: What If This Were Your Last Day?
I was talking to a colleague here about the many varieties of prayer, petition, thanksgiving, praise, intercession. It dawned on me that there’s a kind of prayer I say almost every morning. It comes to me on my morning run through the park. This is going to sound maudlin, but here it is, the unvarnished, odd truth. Bounding down the trail, I think, “This might be the last time I run. Ever.”
See. It does sound a bit hysterical, but I mean the thought in the best, most positive, upbeat, good-news way possible. It reminds me to treasure my day. Teach us to number our days so we may apply our hearts to wisdom, says the Psalmist. Or even bolder, Lord, make me to know my end, and the measure of my days.
Almost four years ago I had open-heart surgery. It was a shock. I was in great shape. So healthy I walked the mile to the hospital briskly. When I came out of surgery, though, I felt awful. I wouldn’t be running for a while. Just a flight of stairs had me winded for months. I congratulated myself for walking a whole block.
The experience has made me treasure all the little things of life. Eventually I got back in shape (a big thanks to cardiac rehab). Now I go around the park three times instead of just once. Sometimes it’s hard, sometimes I’d rather sleep in. But then I smile and pick up my pace. “I’m going to enjoy every minute of this run, even going up the hill, because I might never do it again.”
“Make each day your masterpiece,” said John Wooden. Teach us, Lord, to number our days so we may apply our hearts to wisdom is the prayer. Living each day as though it were our last is not such a bad mental exercise.
“You look happy when you run,” one of my neighbors said. I laughed. I told him the truth. “I’m smiling because I’m thinking, This could be my last run. Ever.”