I ran my first half-marathon a little over a year ago on October 22, 2017. I ended up signing up one summer Sunday afternoon when I was feeling particularly daring and invincible (just kidding, I did it because my cousin was doing it and you can’t let a 19-year-old put your 21-year-old self to shame). But before signing up for the race, I had never thought of myself as a distance runner let alone one of those “marathoners”. For a couple years in high school, I ran track. My races tended to be the shorter-distance sprints mostly because they require everything you’ve got but only for about 30 seconds. Anybody can go all out for 30 seconds, right? It’s the long-distance runs that take months of training, extreme endurance, and an extra level of commitment. Just like any sport, distance running is at most 50% physical and at least 50% mental.
So, in the hot summer of 2017, my cousin Rachel and I decided that we would attempt our very first half-marathon. After work every other day, we would get home, lace up our tennis shoes, and run four or so miles out on the blazing road. When the late-July sun got too hot for our already-over-heated bodies and our original 4 miles turned into 7 or 8, we would take over her parents’ basement (thanks Aunt April and Uncle Patrick!) and spend at least an hour running the never-ending loop of the treadmill. At times the training was grueling – the sun beating down making it hard to see and breathe, the sweat running into our eyes, the burning sensation in our calves and lungs as the last few miles seemed so far away, and of course the mental discouragement that was always close at hand pleading with us to stop because we weren’t “marathoners” anyways.
I remember during the training thinking that it was one of the hardest things I had ever done, but not so much physically as mentally. The more I trained my body, however, the more my mind began to believe I could do it. Instead of seeing the race as one impossible 13.1-mile stretch, I began to break it up into 13 1-mile stretches that instantly became possible and even probable. On the day of the actual race, each completed mile turned into a little victory and gave me enough encouragement to keep going until I was finally finished.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the marathon because I now see that God taught me that lesson just in time for Him to prepare me for an even longer marathon he would have me to run.
Wait so you’re running a 26.2 now? Ha! I wish. Actually, I haven’t run any more than 5 miles since training over a year ago. (I’m getting lazy). What I’m referring to is prayer. For the last year, God has consistently put on my heart a desire and an urgency to pray. Now at this point, I’m not going to share exactly what I’m praying for, but if you’re experiencing the same nudge from the Holy Spirit to pray for something or someone you can fill in your own blank here. God knows and you know.
Over the course of this year God has shown me through His Word and brought to mind several verses that I could list but because of space and time purposes I want to focus on one specific passage that the Holy Spirit has directed me to time and time again.
It’s the parable of the persistent widow in Luke.
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’
“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”
And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
If an unjust, finitely-minded judge granted the widow’s request by giving her justice, how much more could our just, loving, and omniscient Heavenly Father do for us if we would just consistently present our requests and needs to Him?
Prayer is a tricky thing. Sometimes you can pray for a week and then you get an answer. Other times God allows you to pray for years without giving any specific answer. But one thing is sure, Jesus taught his disciples to be persistent in prayer and with that have a heart full of thanksgiving for what God has already done (Philippians 4:6, 1 Timothy 2:1, Ephesians 6:18).
This kind of persistent prayer reminds me of another man in the Bible who highly valued prayer: Jesus. He spent a big chunk of His time on earth pulling away from the crowds and His disciples to spend time with His Heavenly Father in prayer. Even as the Son of God, His ministry was entirely dependent on His consistent communion with the omnipotent and omniscient Father. Now, Jesus is seated at the right hand of God, interceding for those who love Him at every moment (Romans 8:34, Hebrews 7:25).
You guys! Jesus is constantly praying for us because He loves us!
My hope is that this encourages those of you who are in the middle of what feels like an eternity of praying for a family member, friend, situation, or whatever it may be. If you feel like God has put something on your heart to consistently pray for and it aligns with His will (you can know whether it aligns with God’s will by checking the Bible!), keep on keeping on! Don’t stop because of discouragement. Don’t stop because it feels like you could be praying for another 20 years. Don’t stop because it looks like nothing is changing. Obey the Spirit in you that is putting that person or situation on your heart over and over again. Take it day by day while also taking time to sit back and watch God do what He does best – redeem people, redeem relationships, and redeem situations. Our God is big and He delights in amazing the people who put their trust in Him (2 Chronicles 16:9, Ephesians 3:20).
Just like I never thought I’d be a marathoner, I never thought I’d be a prayer warrior. It’s only through the practice, the obstacles, and time that we will get stronger and gain enough confidence to keep going. So don’t stop praying here! Let’s be imitators of Jesus and persevere in prayer. With God, the best is always yet to come!
If you’d like to support Maggie as she serves with GEM in Mexico, you can do so HERE. You can also contact her directly to talk further about what it means to be on her support team and find out how you can be praying for her!