Is it possible to really "live on a prayer," as Bon Jovi sang? I believe it is.
In fact, Lent – a time of fasting, prayer, reflection, and penance for millions of Christians around the world – may be the perfect time to try actually living on a prayer. Lent is only 40 days, yet I lived on prayers for four straight months when I ran across the country last year. After a series of heartbreaking events, I needed something to strive for.
While it sounded crazy, I took both my love of running and my inclination to help people up a few notches.
From January to May of 2011, I pushed an 80-pound baby jogger filled with my supplies from California to New York. I desired to help as many people as possible, which I felt was best accomplished through prayer. I asked people to send me their prayer intentions. For each individual request I received, I promised to say a decade of the rosary for that intention as I pounded out the miles.
While I was trying to work through my own suffering and pain, the prayers I received were tremendous reminders of our vulnerability as humans. I was honored that people entrusted their prayers with me and asked for my help in their own pleadings before God.
I ran 3,700 miles, so I had a lot of time to pray. During those four months, I prayed for approximately 3,500 intentions from people across the world.
My heart broke a thousand times as I read through people's difficulties.
- A woman in Virginia asked that I pray for her young daughter fighting cancer.
- Couples from Ohio and Massachusetts asked that I pray for them as they went through divorces.
- I prayed for people who were terminally ill, people fighting addictions, couples who wanted to conceive a child, and people losing their homes.
One particular prayer request troubled me greatly. It was from a mother who asked me to pray for her young son. He was fighting cancer and was in terrible pain from a bone marrow transplant.
Another was from a young man who was paralyzed.
My heart went out to a woman who was trying to escape the grips of depression.
I recalled how Christ suffered in this world and I believe He was with all these people in their sufferings as well. I also believe it was the act of offering up my own suffering for these intentions that led me through the miles where I felt I had nothing left to give.
I took time on the run to reflect on my own struggles. I had lost my mother to cancer, went through a painful divorce, lived out of my car for two months, and endured surgeries for a collapsed lung amongst other things. I always found that surrendering control of my life to God did not take away the pain, but rather guided me through it.
Some of the people who sent me intentions also let me know the outcome of their struggles.
In some cases, I heard beautiful stories of healing. In others, we did not receive the answer we desired.
However, many of these people trusted in the Lord's plan, though they did not understand it at the time. Tragedy did not have to pull them away from God, but could actually draw them closer.
Lent is a time to ensure we pray, fast, and give alms. It is a time to truly live on prayer; may it bring us all closer to the Lord.
May we be patient with one another and love even our enemies.
May this season open our hearts to compassion by allowing us to see goodness in others.
Let us turn away from our sins and walk with Jesus. To cast off our desires and embrace God's will is a difficult task. Our burdens are heavy, but Christ has lightened the path. We do not have to walk, or run it, alone.
Jeff Grabosky currently teaches at a Catholic school and works at a specialty running store in Phoenix, Arizona. You can contact him at www.jeffrunsamerica.com.