The Garden of Prayer

I’m walking through shady woods on a warm Saturday afternoon, shafts of golden sunlight illuminating the variety of pine, ash, beech and hemlock trees along the trail. Somewhere unseen, water rushes over a rocky creek bed winding its way down the North Carolina mountainside.

The aura in these woods is unlike any I’ve ever experienced. Not because of any especially unique landscape or unusual beauty, but because a special peace permeates the atmosphere beyond the typical tranquility of woods. This peace is God’s peace. Along the twists and turns of the trails are wooden benches and inscriptions of Bible verses.

I’m visiting The Cove in Asheville, the mountainous retreat grounds known as The Billy Graham Training Center. Is it just the nature of a retreat and the presence of Scripture that creates this deep and wonderful environment?

I don’t think so. I think it is prayer.

Later, at the first session of the conference I’m attending, the announcer says the staff has prayed for each attendee by name over the past week. The experience I’m having at this conference—the aura of peace, the whispers of the Holy Spirit to my heart, the joy and kindness present in every staff member I encounter—is a result of prayer.

The Workings of Prayer

It is no coincidence that I’m here noticing so vividly the fruit of prayer. This summer has brought a renewed call to deepen my commitment to it. Last month I heard Maria Durso, a pastor’s wife of many years in Queens, New York, say this: “Intercession is to the church what a mechanism is to a clock.” Our prayers go where we can’t go, she said. Prayer is the place where we stir passion for God and others and receive vision for each situation. My husband and I have committed to regular times of prayer together for the small group that we lead, knowing that without prayer, there won’t be any eternally significant impact to the people who attend.

Ruth’s Prayer Garden

Next to a beautiful chapel at The Cove is a place called Ruth’s Prayer Garden, named for Ruth Bell Graham. It’s a lovely circular planting of bushes and shrubs at the edge of the woods with its own walking path and meditation benches. Blue and yellow tiger swallowtails and silver-spotted skippers flash their beautiful wings as they drink from bright pink and white summer blossoms.

What an appropriate picture of prayer, which is itself a garden. A place where seeds are planted and watered. A time of sowing for a harvest yet to come. A process begun in solitude and finished for the benefit of others: The Spirit speaks to attendees of the small group, people get saved or healed during  Sunday service, strategies are revealed and need only faithful obedience before the fruit blossoms.

One of the best things about our personal prayer garden is that we don’t have to wait for a certain season of the year to cultivate it. We can start investing in it now and continue that commitment to see fruit in every season.

Calligraphy painted on the wall of the prayer room inside the chapel at The Cove.

2 Responses to “ “The Garden of Prayer”

  1. Linda Williams says:

    As always your thoughts and comments are spot on. Speaks to me. Have been reading Fresh Wind Fresh Fire, by Jim Cymbala… the story of The Brooklyn Tabernacle. Prayer was a vital ingredient in his life and the life of the church. You said it beautifully.

  2. Joanne says:

    Thank you, Linda! Maria Durso and her husband planted a church out of The Brooklyn Tabernacle! So they were trained by Jim Cymbala. I’ve always been interested in that book and must put it on my reading list.

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