Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” Jonah 3:4b
My mom loved to walk. When she was growing up, she’d walk with her brothers everywhere. School, town, shopping, everywhere was another walk. This carried right up into her seventies. She’d walk around her neighborhood and pray. This was before prayer walking became what it is today. While she walked, she would be praying, recounting the names of family and friends and circumstances. She’d out-walk many younger folks, and I really believe this is what kept her so lively.
The city of Nineveh was a three-day walk across. It was either a city that predated our examples of urban sprawl, the people were slow walkers, or they had short legs. Jonah walked a day in to speak his message. Given what’s happened so far to Jonah, try imagining what Jonah was thinking and praying. He wasn’t excited to speak in Nineveh. Memories of his dislike of the Assyrians, the big storm, three days journey in the fish’s stomach, and the fish-puke experience were fresh on his mind, and I’m sure he still wasn’t ‘on-board’ with his task. If he was praying, perhaps recent memories influenced his prayers.
A three day walk in Colorado would take you to Glenwood Springs from Highlands Ranch! While that’s quite a distance, a lot of us walk just to be outside, to exercise and take enjoy the sunshine and fresh air. And, while we’re out and about walking, there’s always time for prayer!
Rather than the hike to Glenwood Springs, take a walk around your neighborhood, a park, or at your workplace. Get outside (hopefully, the sun is shining bright on you!), and pray for those you see and don’t see. Depending on where you’re walking, you may not recognize or know anyone. That’s not important. As you walk by homes, cars, and offices, pray for those who inhabit them. As you walk past people, pray for them. You have no idea what stories they live and the pain they’re experiencing. God sees them, knows all about them, and your lifting them up in love is a sign that you care and love them too. It’s really hard to pray good things for those around you, even those you have issues with, and not begin to love them. Perhaps what will happen to you is you’ll recognize the joy derived from praying for others and make this a habit. May God make it so.
By Rich Obrecht