Some people like to do what they call a Prayer Hike. That is where one or more people go on a hike, or walk, and pray as they go. Now, many people, like myself, wind up on a prayer hike inadvertently when they find the trail much longer and steeper than anticipated. But here we are discussing hikes that are focused on prayer from the onset.
This is a great thing to do, and is actually very easy once you give it a chance. You can set a time aside on the weekends or at lunch time, go by yourself or invite some friends, and just give it a try.
The praying that takes place on such walks is typically non-structured. While it would be possible to step through a structured set of prayers or a memorized prayer, such as the Lord’s Prayer, most folks take this time to be an impromptu, go-with-the-flow time to speak to God.
If it comes down to it, even the nature part is optional. I can be found talking to myself pretty much anytime, anywhere. This trait of mine became forgivable and even one to be encouraged when I became a Christian and found that rather than talking to myself, where the returns were dubious if not negligible, I could talk to God and be greatly profited.
While God, fortunately, overcomes the grunge of the city and beauty is found there, he is resplendent in nature. A walk through nature is like finding the path of crumbs in the forest leading one home. For many, a nature setting is the preferred environment with which to connect with God in a special way.
Some folks are most comfortable speaking to God with a formality that they feel honors him. Others are more colloquial. The point is to use the method that best suits your conscience. The impromptu prayer needs to become easy, second nature. The words need to flow directly from the conscience in a way that feels appropriate. If those words need to be filtered or adjusted, the less likely they are to be genuine and really get to the point. Understand here that I am not advocating a prayer with more or less formal language. The language needs to suit you, the one who is praying. My point is that the language needs to come easily. Practice will make this work.
The same can be said for praying alone or among a group of hikers. It can be embarrassing to speak out loud to God in front of others. But it gets easier, and there are advantages to becoming comfortable with it. For one thing, when more than one person prays to God, advocating for the same united thing, it can be very powerful.
So, here you are, taking a walk during the lunch hour through the neighboring park or greenbelt. Maybe you are alone, or maybe a few of you have gotten together.
I always get the immediate things on my mind out there first: the difficult boss, the financial problems, the marriage difficulties, my moral failures. I do that because, to me that is the most honest thing to do. Those really are the things on my mind. God knows that, and to save them, or forget them, seems to me to be edging toward performing for him. I don’t want to perform for him. I want to be as real as possible. If something is bothering me, I tell him. Otherwise it is something I feel like he is waiting to hear. So that is where I start.
And then the most amazing thing happens. Something from that outdoor environment gets my attention. It can start from the warm feeling of the sun on my arm, or the sunlight in my eyes that makes me squint. And it feels like the sun says to me – “Isn’t that amazing?”
And I say, looking down at my arm, “Yes, that is amazing.” I begin to feel alive in a world that is alive around me. The smell of wind blowing across the grass. A bird landing on a branch bouncing in the breeze. First one little voice whispers to me. Then more. Suddenly the park itself is alive and comes to greet me.
The trees, with their bark, the skin of the forest, with its scars and wrinkles, lean toward me, and brush me with their limbs. The leaves beg me to examine their veins. “Have you seen this?” Each different, but each spectacular. The infinite busy creatures. The carpet of green, the dome of blue.
A few moments later, I feel like an amazing creature in a world amazingly made. I feel the astounding power of God, where the smallest thing around me, a leaf, an ant, is more complicated, and alive and amazing than anything humanity has ever thought of.
Really, there is nothing like it. The author C.S. Lewis noted that the best place to take a non-believing scientist or a real thinker is nature. Eventually the noise of God in nature is deafening.
Once you’re in that place, just a few minutes into your walk, your mouth will hardly be able to keep from pouring out praise to God. It becomes so easy. Connecting to God like that, in praise, as a consequence of observing nature, is so freeing and so empowering that you will return to your office balanced and ready, clear headed and encouraged.
The prayer that most blesses God, most blesses the one who prays it. And there is almost no easier way than from within the sanctuary of nature, which itself raises up its branches to him in prayer with every sunrise.
So. If you can figure it out, do it! You’ll love it!