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Prayer on the trail

From the March 21, 2011 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel


O dreamer, leave thy dreams for joyful waking, 
O captive, rise and sing, for thou art free; 
The Christ is here, all dreams of error breaking, 
Unloosing bonds of all captivity.

He comes to bless thee on his wings of healing; 
To banish pain, and wipe all tears away; 
He comes anew, to humble hearts revealing 
The mounting footsteps of the upward way.

He comes to give thee joy for desolation, 
Beauty for ashes of the vanished years; 
For every tear to bring full compensation, 
To give thee confidence for all thy fears.

He comes to call the dumb to joyful singing; 
The deaf to hear; the blinded eyes to see; 
The glorious tidings of salvation bringing. 
O captive, rise, thy Saviour comes to thee.


Christian Science Hymnal, No. 412

Last summer, I went for the first time to a summer camp for Christian Scientists in Colorado. I had never been in the mountains before, and I had never even visited Colorado. I was signed up for the horsemanship program, but as the time to leave for camp approached, I felt a little nervous because I hadn’t ridden horses in a while.

A Christian Science practitioner I knew well would be there at camp, praying for the campers who asked her for help. So before I went to camp, I spoke with her and she gave me some comforting ideas to take with me to the mountains of Colorado. We talked about how God was the only one governing me as well as my horse, and this concept was really helpful.

The first couple of days were good. I had fun riding around camp, meeting new people, and eating breakfast and dinner in the lodge. Not to mention my best friend ever was there with me!

Then the time came for “three-day” trips, where we were going to go into the mountains, camp out, and cook on a fire pit, then come back three days later (smelling horrible) and looking forward to sleeping on a mattress. I was very excited!

I was to go on a trip to Elk Head Pass. I had seen part of the trail beforehand, but didn’t know how difficult it would be. As it turned out, only a couple of minutes after we hit the trail, it got very steep, and my horse had trouble getting up the mountain. I was very afraid. I decided to turn my thoughts to Christian Science for support, and I began singing hymns from the Christian Science Hymnal to comfort and calm myself, hymns I didn’t even know I knew the words to. The ideas from Hymn 412 especially stood out to me, and I thought about them throughout the rest of the trip. The line that really struck me was “to give thee confidence for all thy fears.” I saw that this line applied directly to me. God was with me, giving me confidence, and I didn’t have to be afraid! The rest of the trip went smoothly, and I felt like I had never prayed so much. We returned to camp with tales to tell.

A week and a half later, my parents came to the rodeo at the end of the session to pick me up. I’d had so much fun, though, that I wanted to stay. So they signed me up for a second session. This time, I was on the same three-day trip to Elk Head Pass. But as we set off, little did I know we would be going all the way to the top of the pass this time, on a steep, slippery, narrow trail.

I was riding a different horse, named Rider, this session, and I hadn’t ridden him until that day—unlike the other campers in my group, who were familiar with their horses. Furthermore, it was Rider’s first summer at camp, and I worried that he might buck me or behave poorly.

Rider was being extremely frustrating throughout the first day of the trip. He kept stopping in the middle of the trail every few minutes to eat some weeds. This made me feel uncertain about the steep climb up the trail.

As we continued to climb, the weather turned very windy, and again I was afraid. My horse was struggling to climb the slope, and I felt unsafe. I had never been in a situation like this before. So I turned to God again, and as I prayed, I started to realize that I didn’t need to let fear govern my thinking. God was caring for me, just as He always did, and with that understanding, the trip became fun rather than fearful.

We got to the top, and at first I was relieved. I was struck with a sight that I will never forget. We were standing in the middle of a dome of mountains, and I could see a lake that hadn’t been visible before, as it was so high up. It was the most beautiful place. It was also very windy and cold. We were very high up, and I knew that the only way down was the same slippery path we had come up. I was nervous about the downhill trek, and as we lined up to take a picture, I put on a convincing fake smile to cover the fear in my eyes.

God was with me, giving me confidence, and I didn’t have to be afraid!

As we descended, I was shaking at first—worried about the vertical, rocky plummet beside me. But then there was a moment of truth. At one point Rider decided that NOW would be the perfect time for a snack—the time when I was freaking out more than ever. So he stopped in the middle of the trail, ate some weeds, then moved on. 

I realized all of a sudden that I didn’t have to be afraid. After all, if Rider could stop and eat in the middle of what seemed like the scariest thing ever to me, he clearly wasn’t afraid—and besides, he was doing the walking. My job was to just sit back and enjoy the ride. I realized there was a spiritual lesson there: I knew that God was leading both Rider and me, and that just as I needed to let go and trust my horse, I could also trust God’s direction instead of clinging to fearful thoughts. I could enjoy the ride spiritually, as well.

Rider continued down the mountain, stopping occasionally to eat more, until we were safe on the flat ground. When we got down, I was so grateful that I had the opportunity to be in a situation like that, where I had to completely rely on God and His guidance.

When I got home from camp, I felt much closer to God and also like a completely different person. My parents noticed this change too. Now I’m ready to return to camp this summer to face new trails and trials, with the help of my teammates, counsellors, the horse I’m assigned to ride, and God!


Katie Thompson attends high school at The Principia in St. Louis, Missouri. In her spare time she enjoys playing tennis and being with friends.

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