Our retirement community has an asset in being located above Hess Creek Canyon. A trail leads from the central building down to and around the canyon. It’s not a long trail, perhaps close to a quarter mile as it circles the creek, a bridge on both the north and south ends. Oregon trees, both evergreen and deciduous, line the creek and border the trail. Numerous beasts—squirrels, birds, deer, and, at one point, beavers—graze the meadows, scamper and chase each other, or sing from the tree tops. It’s a place of refuge for humans as well as animals. Old humans and beasts of all ages.
Sometimes I walk briskly, for exercise. Other times I meander and meditate. (The latter is, frankly, my favorite.) At all times it’s become a place I love.
I’ve also made it a habit to do prayer walks on our trail. These are slow walks with frequent stops. I’ve developed a pattern, using different “stations” along the trail to pray for certain things.
I took a prayer walk this morning. As I approached the trail I attended to the presence of God. I asked Jesus to teach me to pray. I prepared my spirit.
Here’s my pattern. At the first station, the bench on the path heading to the north bridge, I stop to pray for my family, naming my son and daughter and their spouses, speaking the needs of each grandchild, then opening the eyes of my heart to any extended family member. I spent special time this morning praying for our nephew Josh whose cancer appears to be fatal.
The second station is the north
bridge, a lovely spot right over the creek as it gurgles and sparkles below me.
There I pray for people in this retirement community—residents, staff
administration, and board members. This morning I lifted up my friend who has
just lost her husband, and another friend in the health center who is
approaching the end of life. These are both experiences I’ve not had (yet), so
in addition to praying for my friends, I asked God for wisdom as I accompany
At the third station I sit on the bench beyond the bridge and around the bend to pray for the church, for the members of my Sunday school class in particular, and for unity among the congregations in the larger community. At the fourth station, another bench, I ask God to bring to mind any people not included in the previous stations. I linger a little longer at the fifth station on the south bridge because my concern there is for the local community, the nation, and the world. Yes, that’s altogether too much to pray for at once. So I pray about any matter that swims to the top of my mind. Then I walk back up the hill to the trail head, praising and thanking God for his sovereignty and goodness.
I have another prayer walk pattern that focuses on the nation and the world, and even then the trail’s not long enough. In another pattern I lift up my personal needs and dreams; that walk’s about renewal.
I hesitate to post this because it almost sounds like I’m a super-spiritual prayer guru. I’m not. One of the reasons I take these walks, other than my need to connect with trees, is that prayer has been so hard for me lately. I sit in the chair with good intentions and go to sleep. Or I find myself off in some fantastic day dream. Walking the trail and praying keep me grounded and help me attend to what I’m supposed to be doing. So I do it, not because I’m such a strong prayer warrior or whatever, but because I need help as I try to pray.
The trees help.