Joining us today is friend and author Murray Pura to bring us an inspiring devotional.
THE PRAYER TREE
A person can pray anywhere or should feel free to pray anywhere. But sometimes it helps to have a special place to go to, a spot that helps you quiet your mind and focus your thoughts. Some people like churches, some like gardens, others like porches, still others prefer a walk along a path or a ride on horseback through a field of tall grass. Jesus liked lonely places away from people and when in Jerusalem preferred the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. When my children were young they had a prayer tree.
There were two prayer trees actually. One in the woods only a few hundred feet by the home we lived in when they were five and three. Another up a mountainside when they were twelve and ten. The first one was always arrived at after a long walk in the woods that included visiting horses in a wooden corral and looking for deer antlers and bones in the brush. I should explain this town was right in the Rocky Mountains and elk, deer, coyote and other animals were common sights. So finding antlers and animal bones was common too. Whatever was found was placed at the prayer tree and left there. My son insisted we stay at the tree for five or ten minutes and pray about whatever we wanted. He was quite dogmatic about it. So we stayed and prayed. One prayer was always thanking God for the animals he had created.
The first tree was strong and flourishing. The second, the one up the mountainside in a wilderness park, also in the Rockies, was wind-blasted and heat-scoured and utterly empty of leaves. In fact it was dead. But, as is sometimes the case, as dramatic and beautiful in death as it was in life, if not moreso. It required a drive into the mountains and a stiff hike onto a ridge to get to it. By that time the tree was a welcome place to sit and relax and drink water – and pray. The view ahead of us was spectacular – mountains and peaks and glaciers and acres of sky. My son was less dogmatic at 12 than he had been at five and we lingered for a long time or short time, whatever suited us. Some prayers were spoken out loud. Some were silent. He didn’t care. There was more grace. My daughter loved this prayer tree the most of all. The location and the silvered beauty of the long dead mountain tree touched something in her soul.
Now the kids are grown up and at university. I pray for them when I’m in bed, when I’m driving, when I’m walking my dog. And I’m pretty sure they pray for their father and mother. They lead busy lives – school, studies, friends, cooking their own meals at an apartment a hundred miles from the mountains they grew up in. Maybe one of them has found another prayer tree. It’s funny but I remember both the trees we often stopped to pray at whenever I think long and hard about the days gone by. The one up the mountainside I can get to in less than an hour. It’s nice to be able to do that, just like Jesus enjoyed making his way to the familiar gated garden in Jerusalem. When I’m there it’s easy to remember so much of what really matters – the children, family, God, companionship, the dogs we often with walked up those steep slopes, the beauty of a planned world. You never forget what counts the most at such places where those you love have been with you numerous times and where you have met together the One in whose hands you have placed their lives and yours forever and ever, amen.
Murray Pura was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, just north of the Dakotas and Minnesota. His first novel was released in Toronto in 1988 and was a finalist for the Dartmouth Book Award. Since that time he has published ten more novels, two collections of short stories, and several nonfiction titles including the Zondervan books Rooted and Streams and the Baker devotional Majestic & Wild. He has been a finalist for several awards in the US and Canada and in 2012 won the Word Award of Toronto for Best Historical Novel. Murray lives and writes in southwestern Alberta and is currently published by Barbour, Baker, Harper One, Zondervan, and Harvest House as well as several other publishing houses – he works with publishers in Canada, America, the UK, and Holland. His releases for 2013 include the novels: Ashton Park, The Rose of Lancaster County, A Road Called Love, Seven Oaks, The Painted Sky, Whispers of a New Dawn, Beneath the Dover Sky, The Name of the Hawk, and An Amish Family Christmas. His diverse writing spans many genres including: historical fiction, contemporary fiction, literary fiction, romance, adventure, western, suspense, fantasy, Amish, and inspirational. Most of his work is available in ebook format for Kindle, Kobo, and Nook as well as in paperback.