A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you is the promise of the new covenant. And we are exhorted to do all we can to have a new mind.
How am I doing this? Well, I have turned my daily quiet time into a prayer walk. I had been praying face down after learning soaking prayer from John Arnott, and so for the first few days, this was a wrench. I found it hard to focus my thoughts out of doors; they wandered.
But everything in life is habit, and I gradually got into the habit of praying out of doors. I accepted that I prayed differently while walking from field to field in South Oxfordshire. That my spirit soaring in joy and praise and happiness was prayer—just not organized or cerebral. And I understood that this was going to be the prayer I would pray for a while—praise, thanksgiving, joy. I might not be diligent in praying through lists, but I would convert the random thoughts that came into my head into prayer by praying about them.
I have also started listening to a dramatized reading of the Bible on my iPhone as I walk. I listen for 45 minutes which means I get to listen to several chapters. It’s a wonderful way of getting the big sweep and the large themes of scripture, though, of course, there is slightly less pausing to reflect, and no checking footnotes, commentaries, concordances, Bible dictionaries etc. Oh well, I have done a lot of that for 22 years, but have rarely been as immersed in Scripture as when I listen to several chapters during my walks.
Hopefully, this increased exercise will begin to give me a different body—at least will build muscle mass, and increase fitness, strength, health—and build a stronger immune system because of walking out of doors in all weathers. It does appear to give me a new perspective, optimism and resilience.
And, after a month or two of practice, I have actually been praying better. I am a classic night owl. I wake up a bit groggy and mentally slow. Prayer in the mornings can be unfocussed; I can “run out of conversation.” But the fresh air, and the endorphins generated while walking actually help me pray better.
And when I return, I can concentrate on my work so much better! That praying and listening to scripture while walking would help me concentrate better and for longer on my reading and writing is an unexpected side benefit–and one for which I am very grateful.