There’s a spot on a lonely quay beside a river where I used to go sometimes to pray. It’s in the middle of a town, but it’s quiet there because it’s not on the way to anything and there are prettier spots nearby if you’re going for a walk. I revisited that spot recently, a little older now than when I used to pray there. I feel the time that has flowed passed, like the water in the river, always flowing since before the Vikings founded the town in the first place.
I like to go back to places like this every now and then. I have a lot of them now, clustered around the different houses I’ve lived in. I’ve always found it helpful to have specific spots I can go to meet with God, to get away from the house and the desk and the lists and walk down to one of our spots—whether it was a tree, or a quay, or a beach, or the wall around a graveyard, or that little chapel at university—and talk freely, without interruption. After spending time with my Maker in these places, they begin to take on a new significance to me, a kind of personal sacredness, because these little corners of ground were set apart for special use. To you it might only look like a tree or a bit of quay beside the water, but for me it was a doorway to heaven.
I like to go back, because visiting these places where I used to pray reminds me of the things I used to pray about. It reminds me of the people I used to pray for, and the problems I pleaded with God over. I remember the burdens I brought to these spots, and how I left them with the Lord, and how at times I fought with him (yes, really) about how slowly he moved them. I remember laying down my plans, sometimes on literal paper, and handing over my dreams, sometimes with real difficulty, and I remember the praises, too, when the answers came and new dreams sprouted and grew where the old ones had died and I remember the times my little tongue hadn’t a hope of keeping up with the overflowing thankfulness I felt for all of God’s mercy and love.
When I come to these places I see the shadow of myself years ago, so often straining under prayers that I now see are answered. They may not have been answered the ways I expected, and not always the ways I wanted, but standing in these same spots I see clearly that God’s answers were always wiser than my requests. As I bring my prayers to God today, I’m know they still are. For that, I am thankful.