Matthew 6:6 (ESV)
“But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
At the end of a long hike few feelings can compare to the moment I drop my backpack and get ready to set up camp. It briefly feels like I’m floating. Twenty-five pounds on my back has been forgotten. Every day at lunch break brings that tough decision: Do I take off my pack or lean against a rock while I eat? Most times I take off my pack, sit on a stump, lay down on my back in the dirt or, better yet, rest on a warm rock and try to forget the burden. But the backpack remains in sight, a reminder that in moments it will again be on my back. All day the weight of the pack is a part of my life. Yes, there are many times I forget it and stumble. For example, if I must go over a fallen tree the pack often throws off my balance as I lean forward. I forget it’s on my back. In those situations, the backpack is like so many burdens I carry throughout the day. I forget my burdens, emotional burdens, are weighing upon me. The weight is not apparent until I get the opportunity to drop them. And that particular relief comes when I get on my knees at the end of the day and pray.
Jesus tells me to go into my room and shut the door and pray. I do! Perhaps Jesus did not need to say this because of the times, but I turn out the light too. In that moment in the dark I hand over the burdens of the day, give thanks for my many blessings, recognize those who need a prayer, and finally lift up the special folks in my life. I do feel that this practice is reinforced by my hiking experiences. I remember one special night at Davis Campsite on the Appalachian Trial high above Burke’s Garden, when I dropped my backpack, made camp, built a fire, ate some warm food, crawled into by tiny tent, and prayed. I soon fell deep asleep, knowing for a night I had no burden to carry. That is a reward, a reward from God.
“When you pray, it is as if you were entering into a palace – not a palace on earth, but far more awesome, a palace in heaven,” wrote John Chrysostom, 547-407 A.D. This is a great image. Whether I’m in my bedroom, or curled up in my tent on the trail, after I pray I can feel as if I’ve entered God’s heavenly palace, and a peaceful reward overcomes me. It’s the feeling I’m going to be fine. And this really helps when surrounded by wilderness.