Last week I spent six days hiking and living on the Appalachian Trail. It’s been a lifelong dream to hike the entire 2,195 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Instead of deciding to be gone from my regular life for 5-6 months, I thought I should start with a small chunk to see if I really wanted to do it.
At times it was hard. The hike was 38 miles of up and down steep rocky trails. But there were flat parts, water crossings, and cool breezes.
At times it was smelly—my feet were worse than a teenage boy and don’t get me started on my arm pits. It was truly dirty camping night after night without showers or toilets. But there were glorious moments like the smell of the trail as the rain started or the first sniff of shampoo off the trail.
At times it was scary. We saw a bear, a rattle snake and a tiny little black snake. There were encounters with 78,000 spiders. But there was safety in numbers at the campsites and sharing of food and stories late into the nights. There was even one night when a senior hiker got up to check on all of us at 2am when a falling branch startled us all awake.
One of the most rewarding parts of the adventure was the time spent with God. Each day included a conversation with God. Each sunrise, sunset, waterfall, and mountainside view got comments of gratitude to the Lord. Every single hard step included a plea for help. The long sleepless nights tossing and turning on a blow-up mat included prayers.
And I used the time to concentrate on one particular scripture. I’d tried to memorize it prior to going and just didn’t have my heart in it. So, I wrote it in my journal page and carried it with me the entire hike. I looked at it often and while hiking mediated on the words and the context of the scripture.
“It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God.” ~Luke 6:12
He went off to the mountains to pray. Jesus went to the mountain to pray. And then He spent all night in prayer. Have you ever wondered what Jesus was praying for that night? We know snippets that indicate He was asking to not have to be tortured and have a horrific death. We know He prayed that He would accept that death if it was God’s will. But did that take all night?
Have you ever prayed so earnestly for something that it was like you were conversing all the possibilities with God? Hours went by and you were still content to continue talking to God. No answers yet, but just talking to God.
That’s how I imagine that night was for Jesus. Prayerful conversations with the Father, in which He continuously talked through how He was feeling, how He wished it would go, how He loved the Father, and how He would do His will.
What a beautiful example of how we should pray. In the midst of chaos and challenges we can turn to the Lord and find rest. Constant prayer is like having a consistently open phone line directly to God. If I’m honest, I rarely take advantage of that type of prayer. I get caught up in daily life and forget to chat with God for everything.
Except this last week while I was in the woods. I was able to connect to God like I haven’t in quite a while. In the midst of the beauty of nature and the difficulty of a physical challenge, I was able to focus on talking to God. And it was a remarkable time.
I want to encourage each of you to take time this week to really focus on talking to God. Find the hypothetical mountain where you can pray…and then do it without ceasing.
It’s your own personal “vacation on the Appalachian Trail.”