Why I Pray for the Strangers at the Gym

I’ve always been a pretty active person. Between competitive cheerleading, softball, basketball, and running, exercising has always been something I have not only prioritized, but enjoyed. But just because I have always enjoyed doing it, doesn’t mean that I have always done it for the same reason.

Up until this year, working out was something that I felt obligated to do. I feared becoming lazy and out-of-shape, so I worked to lift, run, eat healthy, and track my weight to make sure that didn’t happen. The more I went to the gym, the more this mindset grew to be an obsession. I was obsessed over making sure I exercised, even if it meant I’d lose sleep, have unfinished homework, and have no time for other obligatory things. Most of me feeling like I absolutely HAD to go to the gym every single day came from my own insecurities and my desire to change myself. I did love working out, but at the same time it came with chains.

Yes, I still love to exercise. But, the more I’ve gotten to know the Lord, the more my mindset towards working out has changed. There is a sense of obligation to exercise in me, but it isn’t a sense of obligation for myself, it’s for God. Since He blessed me with a healthy body capable of running and lifting, I love showing my gratitude for that by treating my body well. This includes running, lifting, and eating healthy, but most importantly loving my body. I don’t work out to change myself. I work out and eat healthy to glorify God and treat his gifts to me in the best way possible. I look at myself in the mirror, whether it’s after a three course Italian dinner or after a five mile run, through the lens of my savior, and I love what I have been blessed with. I know that I have a healthy enough body to lift and run, which is more than a lot of people have. My mom was a swimmer when she was younger, but due to scoliosis had to give that up. Even walking or standing up for long periods of time hurts her back. I see that happening and I wish there was something other than prayer that I could do for her to make it all better. There really isn’t, so the best I can do is praise God that I have a healthy enough body to do things that she had to get taken away from her. Therefore, I run and I lift to show my gratitude and thankfulness for what He has given me, because although health may seem like something we just deserve, it isn’t something that everyone has. So that’s all the more reason to show your thankfulness. My mindset certainly hasn’t always been that way.

I’ve stopped listening to music while I run. This has been really hard because, understandably, I like some Beyonce to mask the sound of me struggling to breathe. But, to include God fully in this aspect of my life, the tunes had to go. Now, I have 30-50 minutes a day where I can spend time with God. Yes, I pray while I run. A fifty minute prayer seems a bit excessive to someone who hasn’t done it, but believe me, it is so relaxing. Often times I run before school because my life after school can get too hectic to fit it in, and I definitely want this time with God in my day, because I consider running my “rest” where I don’t focus on anything except for God. A long run at 5:45am doesn’t have a great ring to it, but a long prayer before the sun even comes up sure does sound great to me. Inviting God into my run not only keeps me from growing weary, but it gives me a designated time in my day to be in conversation with Him. I pray for my friends, my family, myself, the world, and also the random strangers in the gym.

The “friends, family, and the world” part may be pretty self explanatory- I love my friends and family and the world on a personal level so naturally I pray about them frequently. But the strangers at the gym… I don’t know them, I have never talked to them, and it isn’t guaranteed that I’ll ever see them again, so why pray about them? The story above is why.

I see them pushing themselves in the gym, and I pray they are doing it not to change themselves, but to glorify Someone greater than us. I pray that these people I see sweating and working themselves to great measures know their worth. I pray that they know that the appearance of their body doesn’t define who they are, and I pray that if they haven’t already, that they can find something greater than themselves to tell them who they are and to give them a purpose for exercise. I pray that they can look at themselves through the lens of their savior, and that they can look to working out as a time to thank God for the bodies they are blessed with and to spend time with the Lord, and not as something that carries self-made shame. I pray that they have the same vision towards exercise as I have grown to have, because that has truly changed my vision of myself in immeasurable ways.

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians 19-20

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