The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.
- Soren Kierkegaard
Last Sunday morning I had to grapple with a deep disappointment, the kind I knew could easily morph into anger. I needed to be alone, so I sent the family on to church and stayed home.
That helped, but by the afternoon I needed to be by myself again, and walked to the pharmacy a half-mile away to buy shampoo. When I returned I read for a while, then texted a friend; the two of us went up to the park for a stroll. Later on, I headed out to the last service of the day at the church up the road… and I walked the mile and a half from our apartment. And back.
Being alone helps when I’m caught in the grip of a bad feeling, but it helps even more if I’m physically moving. A long walk burns off tension, and clears some of the emotion from my brain. It gets me out of myself, and helps me take notice of the rest of the world God has made. It puts distance between me and my problems, the kind of distance that can provide perspective.
It's curious, but I've noticed that there's a major shift in my mood, attitude and prayer at almost exactly the two mile mark. I'm not sure why that would be, but it's pretty consistent. Maybe we each have an inner odometer that measures the distance we must travel from inner discomfort to peace.
Prayer is, by definition, a movement toward God. I guess that's why it makes sense that there will be times when praying is easier when we are in motion. For me, when I’m stuck in the muck of distress, it's good to know that walking can help me get to a better place.
Julia Attaway is a freelance writer, homeschooler and mother of five. She is the editor of Daily Guideposts: Your First Year of Motherhood, a book of devotions for first-time moms. She lives in New York.