For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith;and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.
It’s early in the morning when we brace ourselves, unzipping our tent, for another rainy day. The tenting tour is always wet, they tell me, initiating European non-tenters into North American tenting ways with three or four days of shoving damp polyester and metal rods into also-damp bags. Today, the last day of the trip, we’re greeted by a cold breeze and cloudy skies, but no rain. At the last minute, our guide tells us that because of the better weather we’re taking the ridge instead of the valley.
Only a hour or so later, I find myself walking in silence behind my group’s Leader of the Day, a student named Dave, who’s told us that we’re spending the first half-hour or our hike together in silence. We started doing this about two weeks ago, carving time our of our generally talkative walks to pray, reflect and recharge for the day. In the morning flurries of packing and cooking, this hasn’t happened much lately, so I’m thankful for the quiet as we begin a steep ascent of the ridge.
I’ve spent the last four weeks leading a team of eight students, from five countries, aged 19 to 26 years. They are loud and funny, insightful and generous, and it’s been a pleasure sharing the summer with them. Last week, when we instituted Quiet Time, I asked the team to share prayer requests beforehand. They were “one sentence” prayer requests, and covered a range of personal and family needs. During that first thirty minutes, I found myself silently concocting one-sentence prayers. Without the details and with only a little acquaintance, I felt I could do little more.
Today, the sun comes out as I look back over the people hiking behind me. One at a time, I thank God for each of them, reflecting on the experiences and conversations that we’ve shared in the last weeks. Then I pray for them, for offering not only the requests that they shared two weeks ago but others that have come up. My sentence prayers extend to paragraphs, and before I know it the half hour is over.
I’m stuck as I walk with them that this is a mark of community, knowing each other well enough to pray specifically. It can’t be achieved overnight, nor told in an email or written in an essay. Only through time and experience can we come to know one another well enough. I’m thankful for this time, for these people, and for the God who brought us together for the summer.