Places dedicated to prayer attract me. When I was a student at Multnomah in Portland, Oregon I enjoyed walking into the prayer chapel and sitting on the wooden pews. The chapel is as old as the campus. At one time someone proposed removing the old chapel to make way for campus expansion and the uproar from past students stopped that line of thinking in its tracks. Thousands of students have waited within its walls to hear from God. It is a special place.
I can still recall the smell of that old wood structure. My first visit there was when I was a young twenty-something Bible college student trying to find my way with God. Each time over the last several decades, whenever I travel through Portland, I slip into one of those prayer chapel pews and talk to God. It is a timeless place. My mind always wanders to imagine who received life-changing direction in that chapel. I am sure missionaries struggled with the early formation of their calling in those pews. Young pastors in the making heard words similar to what Moses might have heard from God- “Yes, you can!”
Some of the heroes of faith we read about today are people who started out in chapels and special places of prayer just like this one. When we set aside a time and a place to be with Him special things happen.
This week Jan and I were in Redding, California for some meetings at Bethel Church. When we visit Bethel the prayer chapel always gets some of our time. The Bethel prayer chapel is not only appealing from an architectural point of view, it is stunning for its expansive view of the surrounding mountains. On this particular evening I chose to sit in a chair and look north. In fact I put my chair atop the letter “N” that is embedded in the carpet compass rose that indicates North and orients the chapel to the surrounding geography and beyond. Usually I lay down and soak in the beautiful worship music. Today I was on assignment in a different posture.
In my field of vision was Mount Shasta - all 14,179 feet of her majestic beauty. Mount Shasta is what is called a stratovolcano. A stratovolcano is a tall conical shaped mountain with many layers. These volcanoes are constructed by repeated eruptions and coolings and therefore form the many strata that give the volcano its tall and steep appearance.
As I sat in the prayer chapel looking out towards Mount Shasta the sun had already begun to set over the western horizon. The only piece of earth still illuminated was the summit of Mount Shasta. It was vivid and striking. The problem with using words to describe what you see is that you struggle to describe color and its interaction with your mind and emotions. As I write this I am feeling like my words are only a postcard trying to describe a scene from a fantastic vacation vista.
Shasta was reflecting the sun in a color that I would need a combination of words to describe - salmon, pinkish, a bit of orange and white. You would have to see it to really know what I am trying to describe. The surrounding valley was already under the subdued light of evening, that twilight bit of light that lets you make things out, but not quite. Mount Shasta sat atop this twilight in a proud display of glory. She was created for this moment.
Then the Lord spoke. He said, “Watch the High Places.” In the next few minutes I would have one of those conversations with God where He used what He had created as part of His vocabulary. Our conversation was a combination of Spirit-led impressions and the visual display of what I was viewing from within the Bethel prayer chapel. As I looked at Mount Shasta I noticed that the color and light that was striking the mountain was coming from the west. The east side of the mountain was similar to the colorless twilight of the surrounding valley below that was not being bathed in light coming from the setting sun.
As the day continued to wind down its display so did the light striking the mountain. The shadow of evening twilight began to crawl up the mountain encroaching upon the light display that had captured my attention in the first place. Inch by inch the twilight climbed up the mountain as the earth rotated and blocked each previous angle of light. The rotation of the earth was darkening the mountain.
I continued to watch as the very tip of the mountain hung onto the last of the sun's rays and then it was all gone. The show was over. It was like I had just watched a great movie. Now I was left with only the film credits scrolling along to the sound track music playing in the background. I was waiting for the “The End” to scroll up onto the screen and dismiss me from the theater. Twilight had erased the day and now night was falling. The mountain finally disappeared and then false light of human culture began to poke through the darkness.
As I sat there looking into the darkness the Lord continued to talk to me. I realized that this experience of watching the light of evening disappear into the black of night is what life is like sometimes. We have seasons when life and direction is really clear. It stands out just like Mount Shasta in its brilliant display. We feel confident because we can see things. You know where life should be positioned and there are no surprises. Then the night comes and all the references go away and we get nervous.
For some this absence of reference is the loss of a loved one. The loved one was brilliant in life and now they are gone. Someone else had a promise for their life, maybe a calling, and now it has disappeared over the horizon and all you have to contemplate is the darkness that swallowed up your hope. Life can bring us from a vivid place of color and life to the dimness of twilight and then all of a sudden its all gone. What do we do then?
As I sat in the prayer chapel, peering into the darkness, the Lord let me know that if I would simply continue to look into the darkness long enough, where the mountain used to be, that the sun would rise again and the mountain would display its glory once more in the morning. At that moment I knew what He meant when He said, “Watch The High Places.”
When we watch the high places we are taking a posture of hope and faith that says God is not Someone with a single cycle of promise. He always has another morning waiting for us. He is looking for people who will continue to look in hope for His coming faithfulness. That is why we continue to pray in the night in the direction of His will. This kind of prayer believes that things rise again.
What are those high places in our lives? A high place can be the last time God spoke a word of instruction to you. It is that last place He pointed your life in a destiny direction. Maybe that word has entered the night and you are wondering what you are to do in this dark season. The answer can appear to be overly simplistic and foolish - keep looking at the last place the mountain was visible, it will show up again. Many times we miss what God is doing because we start looking in other places. In the darkness we turn our chair around and begin to look south instead of north.
A high place can be a physical assignment from God. Sometimes the miracle we long for happens because we stay simply stay put. Stay married. Stay in school. Stay in the ministry. Stay employed. Some of these assignments can enter the dark rotation of night where it is easy to lose your bearings. Keep looking in hope at your assignment. All life-assignments enter those times when you wonder where God went along with the people involved in your assignment. Just because we cannot see the Promise does not mean it is not there in the night.
With God the night never lasts forever. Morning is always part of His plan. The Psalmist wrote, “Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” Your life assignment may be in the weeping time of night, but daybreak is coming with joy. Don't let the night move you away from this expectation. The night is a place where we make the choice to worship what is not seen or felt. This is where miracles are released.
As Jan and I got ready to go to the evening meeting at Bethel the Lord finalized His word to me. As I pondered the beautiful sight I had just seen on Mount Shasta I realized that in a little more than twelve hours the sun would rise once again and light the mountain. This time it would come from the east and bath the east-facing slopes with new morning light.
I knew that if I showed up at the prayer chapel at sunrise the next day I would be treated to another display of grandeur. In order to see that sight I would have to be in the same position as the night before looking in the same direction. It is the same with God. When you are in a night season keep looking into the darkness where He last appeared and He will make Himself known just as faithfully as the coming of a new dawn.