Scroll down for a great giveaway today!
[A special shoutout to my new North Carolinian sisters joining us here for the first time. Welcome Patience, Elizabeth, Tiffany, Amy, Kelly, Cheryl, Angie, Julie, Vickie, Judy, Ardith, Lisa, Myriam, Karen, Janet, Jennifer, and Wendy. Love y’all!]
I met her at the trailhead at 6:30 am.
Patience and her team had organized a deeply meaningful spiritual retreat at the Cove for the wives of pastors in their denominational conference, and I had been invited to join them in a teaching capacity. By Sunday morning we were bone tired, filled with the joy of community but drained of words and wisdom.
But we knew where to go to find the refreshment we needed. Years ago when Billy and Ruth Graham founded their training center near Asheville, NC, they personally chose scripture passages to inscribe on brass plaques along the ¾ mile trail leading from the Cove’s conference center downhill to the Chapel.
Despite the threat of rain, Patience and I strapped on our walking shoes and hit the trail early on the Sabbath, stopping to read scripture aloud as we wound through rhododendron bushes and crossed streams. We prayed as we walked, interceding for our families, our churches meeting back home, and most of all for the needs of the women we were journeying with that weekend.
What is it about the physical motion of walking that stimulates prayer?
When we pray over meals, we have to keep it brief lest the young’uns get restless (or restaurant patrons overly concerned.)
When we pray at bedtime, it’s a struggle to whisper Amen! before exhaustion shuts our eyes and stops our words.
But when we link the spiritual discipline of praying with the physical discipline of wayfaring, we’re exercising our souls along with our bodies in a mysterious alchemy that benefits both.
In her now-classic book PrayerWalk: Becoming a Woman of Prayer, Strength & Discipline, author Janet Holm McHenry explains it this way:
“You see, my morning prayerwalk has centered my thinking for the day on what God would have me do. I think God sends spiritual endorphins to my needy soul. I have dumped my emotional junk and the day’s agenda on him, so I don’t have to worry…I have forwarded my e-mail list of worries and fears to God and can delete the whole mess from my in-box.”
My regular morning walk takes me a mile or so up Wolfpen Ridge behind our home and back down again. When I first began, I had to stop repeatedly to rest, but I’ve adjusted to the altitude and the grade. Most of these posts have been written in response to listening to God as I walk.
One of my favorite places to stretch my soul, though, is at Lake Junaluska ten minutes from my home. Hundreds take the four-mile loop around the lake each week, many of them daily, while others move slowly and purposefully through the labyrinth next to the chapel. The dedicatory plaque states simply that it was created as a physical metaphor for a transformational spiritual journey to the heart of God through Jesus Christ.
Heads down in concentration or up scanning the sky, modern-day pilgrims enter the labyrinth and slowly wind their way to the center before returning to the starting point. The path is narrow. Many enter, but the walker finds her way to the heart of the Father as a solitary traveler.
When Mike and I have visited Israel, we've approached Jerusalem in a tour bus for expedience – and security’s – sake. How I would love to enter the Holy City the way Jewish pilgrims used to do – singing Psalms of Ascent as they navigated the steep paths leading to the Temple!
“I took my troubles to the LORD; I cried out to him, and he answered my prayer.” Ps. 120:1
“I look up to the mountains – does my help come from there? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth!” Ps. 121:1-2
Two weeks from tomorrow, deo volente, I'll be inhabiting the halls of a hospital in Boston, waiting, praying, awaiting word. While professionals practice medicine, I will be practicing my own vocation.
Prayerwalking. As author Amy Boucher Pye says, “Prayer is a gift from God. Praying is a practice.”
If you’re reading this today, I’ve prayed for you, too. There is no magic in prayer, but there is something much greater.
The making of miracles.
**To strengthen someone else’s prayer life, I’m giving away an advance copy of Amy Boucher Pye’s upcoming book 7 Ways to Pray: Time-Tested Practices for Encountering God. I’ll draw a name at random from the comments after this post.**
For more reflections on prayer, see This Life We Share: 52 Reflections on Journeying Well with God and Others, available wherever books are sold.