A Day in the Wilderness

with 8 Comments

This weekend was my church’s annual Men’s Prayer Advance. We go low budget and tent camp in the middle of nowhere with zero facilities.

I live in Arizona, specifically the Phoenix area. Camping here is a reenactment of Israel’s wandering in the desert–without the manna. After several preaching sessions on spiritual disciplines, we dispersed into the desert for a three-hour prayer walk.

I’m not entirely new to the desert, but walking in it is certainly different from viewing it from the freeway. From far away it looks rather flat, but in reality, it dips and rises, twists and turns. I found myself constantly in the dilemma, should I pray with my head bowed or look where I’m going to keep from falling into the next wash?


Walking out there is very rigorous, but I found it enjoyable in the long run. The 90+ degree weather (full sun) made my human frailty hit home.

When you’re still thirsty after guzzling four bottles of water and you’re getting a little dizzy, you start looking around and realize you’re entirely alone. You climb a small hill and see the rough landscape stretching far away (sadly I could still see the semis glinting in the sunlight on a distant road). But you realize as long as you are there and God is with you, this scorched wilderness is far from God forsaken.

For the record, I saw zero rattlers. Only a few chipmunks, lizards, and jackrabbits seemed to inhabit the place. I started out heading east from camp with water, a whistle, and a phone for emergency calls. After about forty-five minutes, I changed course and headed straight south toward this small mountain. (I don’t know how far it was.)


A close up of the small mountain I climbed.


I have to say the desert is beautiful when you get up above it. The mountain I climbed wasn’t very high, but its construction made the climb more of a scramble than a hike. I shrunk when I got to the top because the sky was too big. Way too big.


Looking south. The whole Phoenix valley is behind me.


I let out a cheer at the top, and it was immediately answered by the hoot of an owl or the yip of a coyote; I’m not sure which it was supposed to be. Needless to say, I met a friend on the same ridge and we scrambled back down together. We talked about our respective novels and their themes/worldview/purpose among other things. The way back was much quicker because we went in a fairly straight line, although we could have gotten lost without a distinctive wash and the line of electric poles. As it was, we came out further south than we thought and started second guessing our course, until we smelled the baked beans.

My dad and I hadn’t packed any camp food, and he had to go into town for gas; so he brought me Chick-fil-a for dinner. I was just barely in time. I found a chair and listened to some very interesting/edifying conversations and had a few laughs till the evening sermon about “Prayers of Faith”.

Amidst the prep for the Prayer Advance, someone forgot the wooden podium. So we had to make do. A group of brothers took a truck out to a sandstone boulder and brought it back. Unfortunately, it broke into sections, but they found some old wire fencing and wrapped it around it to hold it together. The addition of a flat rock turned it into the coolest pulpit ever!


An energetic pastor was afraid he’d break the soft sandstone in the middle of his sermon.


At the end of the night, all the chairs were arranged in a large circle and we had a corporate prayer time. I was very blessed and very tired. Praise God for a community of faith striving to apply the will and Word of God in all areas of life!

On a completely unrelated, irrelevant side note, I hit the first quarter mark of my Crossroads rewrite/edit!

8 Responses

  1. Sarah Grace
    | Reply

    Cool post! I actually have friends in Phoenix. Also, congrats on the progress on Crossroads! 🙂

    • Paul Willis
      | Reply

      Cool! I almost asked who they are and then realized we have like 5 million people.

      • Sarah Grace
        | Reply

        LOL! That’s a fair amount of people . . . you probably don’t happen to know JD Sutter? 🙂

        • Paul Willis
          | Reply

          I don’t know JD Sutter, unfortunately. It’s a big world.

  2. Malachi
    | Reply

    Great post Paul. I happen to recognize that mountain! I thought the rock pulpit was awesome!

    • Paul Willis
      | Reply

      Thanks Malachi! You recognize it? 😉 I hope the pulpit stays put till next year.

  3. aidylewoh
    | Reply

    Wow, Paul! Great blog post! Kate just told me about your blog, so I got on and started reading and was hooked! Way to go with your writing – I’m impressed. =)
    Following your blog now and looking forward to reading more in the future!

    • Paul Willis
      | Reply

      Thank you, Lydia! Your positive feedback is very encouraging. 🙂

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