Last week, my crocuses bloomed brave and bright. Today, there is a 100 percent chance of snow. We’re in the slog of Midwestern spring, which is not really spring at all, but rather weather that teases you with a bit of sun and warmth, then snatches it away.

The stubborn hope of crocuses, though.

This week, I heard sand cranes, caroling their arrival from dizzying heights. But the woods are still sleeping brown and grey. It is March, not May.

We’re also in the middle of Lent, and sometimes, that feels like the hard part. The place we can easily lose focus or feel discouraged.

Lent is a like a long run. You start out full of good intentions and energy. The last mile you’re elated to be nearly done, and energized by your accomplishment. The middle part, though, is hard. At mile five of a ten-mile run, you’re starting to feel weary. You’re questioning your decision to even run in the first place.

So as we hit the middle of Lent, what will sustain us?

In a long run, we might stop to hydrate or fuel. A quick bite of energy, a packet of “goo” or honey, a few sips of water, and we can continue. Our energy is renewed by sustenance.

In the long run that is Lent, prayer refuels us. Especially if we see it not as task or obligation, but rather, access to what we need and want. It is water and carbs on our run. It sustains us with the greatest kindness in the world: being heard.

David W. Augsburger, author of Caring Enough to Hear and Be Heard, wrote: “Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.”

As we mentioned last week, during Lent, many faith traditions focus on prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, practices Jesus taught should be done privately, without fanfare.

Here’s part of Jesus’ teaching on prayer: “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 6:6)

What if the “reward” is to bask in divine love? To be heard and understood? And to be spoken to? Prayer is not just speaking but listening. Not just communication but communion. In prayer, we are heard and loved, which are, of course, indistinguishable.

Prayer eases our isolation, especially if we are willing to listen, to find intimacy in the solitude.

In so many areas of life right now, both individually and collectively, we are longing for resurrection, for rebirth, for a new normal. We’re in need of soul fuel. What if prayer is that fuel?

The woods are still brown and grey, new life hidden below the surface.