I played in your land, Oh Lord, scoring the trail with my aggressive tread and steal steed. My bike lunged, wheelied and billygoated up and up. I pushed through switchbacks, laughing for the sheer dominance of man over earth. I laughed for the sheer joy of man communing with earth.
I jeeprolled through the swollen creek, muddy with summer rain, and fell into the water atop river rocks and salamanders—and I hollered and spoke out damnation on the trail. I hollered and spoke out blessing on the trail. I climbed Heart-attack Hill praying out loud while the spike-deer running next to me taunted me with graceful leaps.
And the prayer lifted, coming regular off my lips like friendship conversation, pub-like and frolicking, loving just the moment of sharing and the moments of laughing. I called out to you, "Change this reality. And, Lord, you can do this." I wasn't struck down for blasphemy. Instead joy sprung from my brazen, yet thankful, words.
I was not silent in my prayer. In the open, my words fell. The laurel heard me and rustled. The spike-deer bounded back into the trees to tell his brethren. And we all of us raised our spirits. Oh, the wonder of hearing words spoken to God. The sheer 'YAWP' of our faith, of my faith.
Am I barbaric, in the woods yelling out strange requests to God? Do I revel in something profane when I splash around in the mud and sing praise at the same time?
I am convinced we pray, not to change ourselves, but to change reality. We cannot bend God to us, yet he condescends to our offering of prayer. And he moves in our reality. He bends things to his righteous ones.
Are you hurting? Pray. Do you feel great? Sing. Are you sick? Call the church leaders together to pray and anoint you with oil in the name of the Master. Believing-prayer will heal you, and Jesus will put you on your feet. And if you’ve sinned, you’ll be forgiven—healed inside and out.
Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with. Elijah, for instance, human just like us, prayed hard that it wouldn’t rain, and it didn’t—not a drop for three and a half years. Then he prayed that it would rain, and it did. The showers came and everything started growing again. (James 5:13-18, The Message)
Can I, Lord, be righteous for one day? Can you hear my prayer? It rises on thanksgiving and glows into the heavens with petition. I need you to stop the rain. I need you to bring the deluge. I need you, I need you.
In my prayers I find delight. I fold it back and find you—the joy of my salvation. I am carving up this trail of life with my big wheels of hope and faith. You bend for me and all I can do is sing.
Timothy Willard is the author of five books, including Longing For More: Daily Reflections on Finding God in the Rhythms of Life and the forthcoming The Life-Giving Adventure of Chasing Beauty (Eerdmans, 2019). He has collaborated on over 20 books and has written, consulted and served as spiritual director for organizations such as Chick-fil-A, Catalyst, Q Ideas and Praxis Labs. When he’s not riding the trails in the Appalachian mountains you can find him by the fire with his three daughters and his wife making up stories about Tom the back yard badger. He lives somewhere in the south Charlotte woods.