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How a 50-mile walk took me beyond words in prayer

By Taylor Garrett | Mission Crossroads

Young Adult Volunteers on a hike at Ghost Ranch Education & Retreat Center. (Photo by Luke Rembold)

LOUISVILLE — For three days, I joined other Young Adult Volunteers and a diverse group of Christians as we walked from Ghost Ranch to the Sanctuario de Chimayo, a historic church in northern New Mexico. The tiring, trying and transformative 50-mile journey through the beautiful countryside continues to color my spiritual growth. Reflecting now, more than a year later, I smile, remembering a poignant moment of the trek: when we held others in intercessional prayer.

Growing up, my relationship with prayer was a struggle. I thought I had to pray the most eloquent prayers, say all of the right words, and remember to pray for all of the right people in order for God to listen. Even today, I find it difficult to keep a regular prayer routine because of my stubborn expectations of perfection.

As we set out on the first morning of the pilgrimage, we were asked to walk along the road while physically holding our hands in front of us as a sign that we were holding those we were praying for with us. Maybe because it was early morning, after a restless night’s sleep, or maybe due to the building anticipation of a long journey ahead, but on that morning, prayer quickly transformed into something new, imperfect and breathtaking.

Walking down the road into Ghost Ranch, looking upon the shadow of the well-known peak, Cerro Pedernal, the sun rising behind Kitchen Mesa Trail behind me, I raised my hands in prayer and whispered five names. Before I could construct a prayer to pray for understanding and healing, before I could find all the right words, something stopped me.  Their names were enough.

As I finished saying their names, a great, overwhelming sense of emotion and presence came upon me. I really think that for perhaps the first time in my life, I felt the true presence of the Holy Spirit. And it wasn’t in the moment when I said the most beautiful prayer. The Holy Spirit accompanied me when I didn’t have anything to say. I walked with my arms outstretched, those names in my heart, and an overwhelming (to the point of tears) confidence that God knew my heart and exactly what I wanted to say.

From 2017-18, Taylor Garrett served as a Young Adult Volunteer in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She now teaches middle school math in Phoenix. (Contributed photo)

Today, when I can’t quite find the right words, or the right time, I often lift up my outstretched hand and remember the words of Romans 8:26, “We do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.”

Praise God for a Spirit who knows me well enough to calm my expectations, my fears and my failures. Praise God for a Spirit who speaks in my place, when I just can’t find the words to say.

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Invite young adults (ages 19–30) to learn more and apply for an ecumenical, faith-based year of service in sites across the U.S. and around the world.

Applications for the 2020–21 YAV year will be accepted beginning Nov. 1:

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