©Joy Dunlap https://joydunlap.com
I thought I knew the way to the prayer garden. But when we got to the fork in the road – actually there were three possible options – I wasn’t as confident. Since it had been more than a year since I’d been to the prayer garden, I couldn’t remember the best way to get there.
“Let’s go this way,” I said to my friends, and we began to head up the hill to the chapel.
On the way up, we noticed two separate flights of stairs leading down into a verdant and woodsy area, but we passed them by.
Talking as we walked, the three of us were enjoying each other’s company, but not paying much attention to the beauty of God’s creation around us.
On the hilltop, the chapel stood encircled by oaks and other trees and the rolling mountains beyond. The wood and stone house of God with its windowed sides invited the outside in, but the intimate, lush prayer garden I was seeking wasn’t in sight.
Walking a few steps back down the hill, I listened intently. And, smiled. I knew right where the prayer garden was, and how to get there.
I called for my friends to join me.
“Listen for the water.”
We stood still and quiet. And we each heard it.
The flowing call of the water running over the rocks; the lyrical sound of the stream moving through the woods; a melody of movement and refreshment calling us closer.
The wooden steps took us deeper and deeper.
Closer and closer to the flowing water.
Cooler and cooler the air became.
Refreshing our minds and bodies.
The peaceful place welcomed us.
Here the water flowed, and the plants flourished.
Later I returned to the prayer garden alone.
To listen to the water, to spend time thinking and praying, to invite the Living Water to flow more fervently through me.
Oh, how I wanted to linger in contemplation in the many places there.
Leaning on the railing of the covered bridge;
Looking at the bountiful rhododendrons above the podium;
Sitting on a bench strewn with flower petals;
Resting on rustic wooden boards in a small amphitheater;
Exploring the trails that spread into the woods.
But I stored it all in my heart.
We don’t need a physical prayer garden to interact with God; we can do that anywhere and anytime. But this exploration reminded me of some ways we can enhance the prayer garden experiences we have in our hearts and minds.
Is our focus on God or on ourselves? While we weren’t aiming for the chapel, starting there turned out well. Our eyes focused on the cross on the top of the chapel, and the stained-glass windows forming a cross on the steeple.
When we begin our prayer time with praise, adoration, and gratitude, we humble ourselves and recognize the power of God.
Acknowledging God’s greatness and goodness and His sovereignty in our lives reminds us of His power and puts us in a posture of prayer.
What blocks us from hearing God? When we intimately connect with those we love, we share more about ourselves, our struggles, our sorrows, our shame. Are we going deep with God and disclosing our hurts and hungers?
Prayer Path-finder: Talk to God the way you would your closest and dearest friend. Tell God at least one thing you’ve been “hiding” from everyone. Share a fear, a heartache, an anger that you’re holding tight. Ask Him to remove it from you or help you work through it.
Take the Steps
What environment will most encourage a quiet, contemplative time with God for you? Stepping away from the world’s demands and the day-to-day cacophony helps silence our hearts and minds.
Prayer Path-finder: Find a time, a place, a setting that takes you out of your normal circumstances and allows you to focus on time with God and to hear Him without competing noise.
Practice ways to prepare your heart: Put your phone in another room. Look at a peaceful picture. Explore a garden. Do a prayer walk. Play calming music. Pray the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) Meditate on a specific Scripture passage.
If we’re always talking, always asking, always demanding, we may miss the answers. We may miss God‘s voice speaking to us.
We’re free – and encouraged – to ask God to heal, to restore, to move, to redeem, and to change things.
But a one-way conversation never leads to intimacy.
It is only when we listen and strive to understand that we learn and grow.
Prayer Path-finder: Ask God to speak to you, reveal something to you, give you wisdom. Then be quiet. Spend time meditating on a passage of Scripture.
Look for Movement
God is the living water. God is always moving. If we only seek or talk to God in a church building, or if we try to contain or segment Him, we will miss out. Likewise, if our relationship with God is not moving forward, it’s good to question whether we are fully committed to our relationship with Him. Are we all in?
The path and the plan God has for us will keep us moving forward in closeness with Him and for His Kingdom purposes.
Our prayer life can reveal our depth and growth. Are we praying not only for our needs but also the concerns of others?
Prayer Path-finder: Stretch your prayer life beyond illnesses, social media posts, and dramatic events. Pray for those you don’t know personally, those who have hurt you, and those you are struggling to forgive. Ask God to guide government and church leaders, and to protect the military and first responders. Pray for those who don’t know the saving grace of God, and for God’s work to be done in you and through you.
Look for where God is moving in your life. Listen to others in your life who are close followers of Christ. Are you as close to the Lord today as you were in the past?
Journey to the prayer garden with God in a fresh way today.
How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.
Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may have her young – a place near your altar,
Lord Almighty, my King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you. Psalm 84:1-4 NIV
- Where is a physical place you enjoying praying?
- In what ways can you go deeper in prayer with God? Is there any anger, sin or heartache you’re holding back from talking to God about?
- How often do you include prayers for those you don’t know? Or pray about yours or someone else’s walk with God?
- Does your prayer life include seeking what God wants you to do for Him?
- Which of these Prayer Path-finder steps will you incorporate this week to deepen your prayer time?
Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.
Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
Psalm 90:1-2 NIV
Life is Better When It’s Full – Joy-full, Thank-full, Purpose-full and Friend-full! ™