There is something about praying on the mountain. My quest to deepen my spiritual journey is largely responsible for my active hiking lifestyle as an adult. I remember the year when I had more questions than answers about my life and Soche Mountain became the platform for that spiritual retreat. At that time, I had just returned from my post-grad studies and was looking forward to starting a new life. Unfortunately, I did not know what that new life was. So every weekend saw me going up the hill in a company of my praying partner and life-long friend Blessings Nanguwo. He is probably nearly half my weight, but he carries a punch. He is a lightweight super-hero. Whenever, I would struggle going up the trails, he would be there giving me encouragement.
The first time we settled down for a praying session, we knew this was going to be a great experience. My mind was immediately drawn to the Holy Bible and I started searching for characters that had spent sometime on the mountains. The earliest I could remember was Noah, whose ark rested on a certain mountain somewhere in modern day Asia. Nevertheless, my focus went to Moses. As an old man, God called him to active service to lead His children out of Egypt to their Promised Land. For someone who was past his 80th birthday, I find his lifestyle extremely contemporary. There are several records where he went up the mountains to commune with God. At one point, he had to go up Mount Horeb to receive the Ten Commandments, and when he came down, he found the camp had gone rogue. He therefore, went back up the mountain to get a fresh set of tablets after breaking the original set from anger. As this story has been told to us many times, I could see that we only focused on the receipt of the Holy Law. Somehow no one bothers to mention the fact that Moses as an old man, must have been exceedingly strong to go up the mountains that many times up to the time he had to face his death. In fact, his last act as a leader was to view the Promised Land from the top of a mountain.
Up on Soche Mountain, it soon became clear why God’s prophets and kings loved communing with Him on mountains. The effort of going up any mountain is refreshing. The challenge goes to both the physical body and the mind. It quickly improves your body strength in proportion to your height, weight and age. If you are older, it winds back the clock of time and keeps you feeling younger and agile. As for the mind, it becomes apparent that one is forced to focus on the ascent, and in time, you learn how to focus on specific matters. I find that hiking clears your mind and runs down any buildup of stress. If there is any activity that refreshes the body and mental faculties, hiking is on top of that list. Inevitably, as one is going up the hill your way of breathing will be challenged as well. Regular hiking then leads to improvement in breathing. It is just simply an entertaining process when you observe how your breathing has moved from half-choking, painting like a monkey who is trying to escape from wild fire, to the majestic purring of a male lion, or a motionless female leopard perched on a tree branch.
By the time you get down to business, you find that you are ready to address your questions, requests and praise to God in a totally focused, relaxed but certainly intensive manner that could not be easily achieved if the same were to be attempted from your house down in the valley. And in my case, the results were remarkable. Prayers on the mountain continue to fuel my desire to escape the hustle and bustle of city life and allow me to retreat where nature runs supreme. I can deal with any problem if I allow myself to go through the rigours of hiking up a mountain, and interact with trees, grass, birds, butterflies, beetles, streams of cool running water, and fresh mountain air. It is very easy to see that of all the places one can pray from, mountains somehow are first choice.
There is something about mountains and prayers that you cannot get from anywhere else. As I escape into the mountains, as a solitary figure or in the company of praying partners, I count those opportunities as a gift from God. I hope we all take the time to feed our spiritual lives by cultivating a habit of praying on the mountains. See you there next time.