My Facebook news feed is filled these days with those in need of support. Some are looking for volunteers; others are raising money for a cause. Still others ~ and the ones I have on my mind tonight ~ are those in need of prayer.
How on earth do I remember all those I promised to pray for, send white healing light to, dance for? What prayer can I possibly offer that will accomplish what they have asked and what I have promised?
As a child, each night I would recite those folks by name: “God bless mommy and daddy, Tommy, Laureen. Michael, Robert, Colleen, Timmy, Maureen, grandmas and grandpas, aunts and uncles, cousins and all my little friends, and make me a good girl,” That list set a habit in place for me. It was soothing, giving me a place to lay my head at night and to clear my mind of those I had been thinking about during the day. It was a great habit ~ and one I took for granted and did not think about until a couple months ago.
One day, while I was doing a particularly difficult workout with my trainer, someone for whom I had been praying came into the gym. As I watched her, I realized that what she was dealing with and how she was handling those dealings was inspiring and inspired. The exercises I was doing were challenging to my strength and endurance. They were not threatening my life nor my well-being.
I began my next set of repetitions of the difficult exercise and started saying her name to myself … and that’s how it started. I thought of all the people for whom I offer prayers. And I said their names. I lose count when I am repeating their names … and something remarkable has happened as a result.
For the past two weeks, I have been able to complete exercises that I had not been able to attempt in the past. As I said each name and thought of each face, my body responded with such peace and power that I was surprised myself. I am not a doctor ~ and I don’t play one on tv. And I do think that if we were able to study my body chemistry during those workouts when I am thinking of others, we would find an increase in oxytocin and endorphins, the body’s way of letting our brain know it’s happy. (While that statement may have little scientific proof, it conveys my experience. Indulge, me, won’t you?)
Praying for others while exercising? Is that okay? One of my favorite stories from a Jesuit during my law school training at Creighton explained it this way. A young seminarian asked if it was okay to smoke while praying. The spiritual adviser replied, “I’m not sure. I do know it’s okay to pray whilst smoking.”
So when you see me at the gym mumbling through my reps, join me in offering a little prayer for those who have asked for your support. Who knows? Maybe we can create an abundance of oxytocin (happiness) in our lives and our world.