第一次到这里，科才弟兄发给我们祷告单张。之后我们个别去找个安静的地方祷告。我于是向林中走去，带着耳机听着赞美的音乐。我可以尽情地赞美神，在他所创造的美好自然里面；呼吸着清新的空气来赞美他！周围是这样的安宁，只有我与他一同坐席，心里向他诉说着对他的渴慕。何等美好的时光。不知不觉中个人祷告的时间很快就结束了，我们开始了第二部分的集体聚会。还记得牧师分享的题目是“请差遣我”，之后Sharon 带领我们唱”Hi-Ne-Ni 我在这里”。我当时热泪盈眶。我对主的回应是：＂我在这里，请差遣我＂
在山上祷告的心情 杨淑芬 6/24/17
上山祷告的感想 紀明新 7/10/17
Prayer Mountain Experience Paul Lai 7/3/17
College was an exciting time for my spiritual growth, as exposure to other Christians with different experiences, spiritual gifts, and church backgrounds enriched and deepened my own faith. But towards the end of my college years, the same openness that helped me to see other Christians’ blessings also helped me to see, with new eyes, the riches of my own church heritage. Even though I’d only attended my Chinese immigrant church in my teenage years, and though I tended to appreciate it as one does when one’s faith is a young adult’s choice rather than an inherited habit, I still approached the Mandarin-speaking congregation members with a little hesitation, even suspicion. Maybe it’s because when I was an unknown teenage boy running around their church with their teenaged daughters, I was greeted with a little suspicion.
Returning to my home church, though, in the summers of an eventful college career, I found a different relationship to the adults in the Mandarin-speaking congregation. This change was both represented and in no small part facilitated by Nhu Tran. In my head, I’d memorized his name as “Neutron,” though he may have even made a joke about himself along those lines. I remember meeting him when I was a teenger, he a jovial older man (perhaps in his forties at the time) with a wide smile and ready handshake. He had neither the dignified, austere bearing of the distant church elders or the parental protectiveness of your fellowship friend’s uncle, but instead, the quick warmth and loud laugh, the unpolished demeanor and unvarnished enthusiasm of a beautiful fool for Christ, as one imagines of St Francis or maybe Zaccheus. He had a gospel-tinged joy that was irrepressible, and he did not discriminate to whom he expressed that fervor or affection. He worked at the church, often holding umbrellas or folding bulletins, sometimes singing choir or teaching a devotional, and often seemed himself a fixture of the building, more comfortable than the pews, more constant than the pulpit.
One day, I visited mid-week on some errand, and Nhu Tran and I struck up a conversation. I found myself sharing unpretentiously about the things God was doing in my life. Nhu Tran had a way of opening you up like that. Even more unpretentiously, he began sharing about a place he went to pray. It was a getaway, not far, a twenty-five minute drive into the Santa Cruz mountains, appropriately named The Prayer and Fasting Mountain of the World, a mountainous retreat center festooned with zealous Korean prayer warriors and dotted with small private prayer huts, where one could go away and seek the Almighty in happy solitude for as long as one wanted. And would I like to go with him some time? In retrospect, it occurs to me how strange a 20 year-old I was, that few invitations would’ve appealed to me more than going to a mountain retreat for solitary prayer with a 50 year old Chinese man. But indeed, it sounded like just what my soul hungered for, and we arranged to go.
The trip, when it came, surprised me with the same unpretentious joy as Nhu Tran did. We hopped in my sporty sedan, drove through windy hills while Nhu Tran told me story after story of his troubled past before Christ and his remarkable life after, and as we neared the tree-covered hills where retreat centers neighbored each other, he watched the roads and pointed out the turns like a soldier returning after the long way home. The Prayer and Fasting Mountain was a small and quick turnoff marked by a simple, carved wooden sign, the kind you easily miss if you’re not looking for it. In English and Korean, it announced itself, the words so much grander but the markers so much humbler than the campy all-service retreat centers in proximity. Up the narrow road to a gate that Nhu Tran knew to get out of the car and open, we drove into a low ebb between two hills that nestled the middle of what must have looked like a miniature version of a retreat resort– a near amphitheater, gardened rows, circles of trees, and cabins dotted throughout. But though the territory was large enough, the appearance of “miniature” came from the size of cabins, A-framed like the simple living quarters of a camp but no longer than one person could comfortably fit in. Like a closet.
Nhu Tran showed me to the office where we signed in (literally, signed our names on a sheet of paper and, wordlessly greeting a Korean woman behind a window, made ourselves at home). We walked along a path, passing one cabin with shoes outside that indicated someone occupied it, but soon finding two, three, more that were empty. Nhu Tran pointed with his hand, holding a tattered Chinese Bible, at one or two cabins I might like to pick, or anywhere as he swept his arm across the landscape of spots open at this odd mid-day hour for a churchmouse and a hungry college student to seek God in.
I don’t remember which one cabin he took, but I remember mine. A sliding door, a small window, a simple carpet, and a sign that read, “Please clean up after yourself” and “Bless you” or something like that. I had left my shoes outside and knelt with Bible and journal in hand. We’d agreed on an hour before meeting outside again. The small room’s air was fresh, faintly scented of the redwoods outside, where birds made the only noise that would cut into the silence.
I think the usual direction of this narrative is that I would struggle for many minutes to find the concentration to pray, and only after wrestling flesh and demons for a seeming eternity, I would finally still my soul enough to hear him. That was indeed the pattern of many future visits to the Prayer Mountain. But this first time, I believe God had mercy on a spiritual simpleton prone to wander, and gave me a really fulfilling time. I don’t remember what I prayed about. It was probably big plans for ministry, and definitely that girl I liked. There were songs, and journal entries, and awkward silences between baring my soul and staring at my toes. There was also an unmistakable Presence, God’s Spirit arriving in ways just as I needed in that hungry youthfulness.
Nhu Tran and I reconvened, both visibly exuberant, he rejuvenated and I slightly wizened. We drove back, chatty and grateful. I think we may have even sang in the car together. He’d shared a sacred place with me, and I’d been there with him.
For the next few years, that sacred place with no function or motive than prayer became a sacred place for me. I went when seeking my direction, in ministry or calling. I went one late night, agonizing about that same girl I liked who was now my girlfriend (and is now my wife). I started going to the mountain once every couple months, until the Korean woman in the office would recognize me, until I’d gotten to know the different shapes and sizes of the many cabins that stretched up the mountain, and the shapes and sizes of different prayers God would bring me through– my modest versions of laments like Jeremiah, praises like David, longings like Paul, silences like Elijah.
By the end of my college years, I had returned to my home church only to be sent by them and God to a new church plant, where Pastor John Lai (no relation) led the three congregations– Mandarin, Cantonese, and English– and I was invited to help grow the English group. John Lai was a visionary of prayer, and one day I mentioned to him briefly this story of Nhu Tran (John knew him well) and The Prayer and Fasting Mountain of the World. If Nhu Tran had brought a hungry urchin to an endless fine banquet, my telling Pastor Lai about the Prayer Mountain was like bringing a fine gourmand and world’s most enthusiastic host to the freest buffet.
We drove there together, and with reverence and humility, Pastor Lai greeted the place’s special design with the same embrace that I had with Nhu Tran. But while he prayed there, I think God gave Pastor Lai a deeper impression and greater burden than I ever imagined in my tiny vision and self-centeredness. God gave Pastor Lai a vision of generations coming to pray and seek God, filled with the passion to pray that would overpopulate every cabin at the center and every heart in each room.
Feedback on going to the prayer mountain Brian Hui 7/10/17
Going up to the Prayer Mountain was a challenge that wasn’t without its reward.
Like most people, prayer–especially extended prayer, was and remains a challenge. How can I possibly pray for hours? What will I say? I’m sure I’ll get bored. I’ll get sleepy. I’ll lose interest.
Plus, there’s the added inconvenience of driving out to the Prayer Mountain on a Saturday morning, a day that I’d prefer to sleep in.
I went up to the Prayer Mountain several times. And while it is a physical mountain, it is also a spiritual and psychological mountain. To get there, you must drive an hour south, traversing through the Santa Cruz mountains. When you finally arrive on the property, you must carefully maneuver uphill around dangerous curves on a one lane road.
But when you arrive, while you are surrounded by beautiful trees, you are also surrounded by silence. The prayer “houses” available aren’t comfortable appointed, they’re spare by design. And then there is the long internal journey of praying.
During my first several trips up the Prayer Mountain, I made it up the physical mountain, but not the spiritual mountain. I gave in to sleep. I was worried about unfinished work. Honestly, I didn’t want to be there so I allowed myself to mentally do other things.
But on one of the trips, I finally decided to be fully present. And that gave me to power to ascend the spiritual mountain. Silence became less lonely and more serene. Praying for one person, led to praying for another, and then another. Praying for myself became bearing my soul and doing business with God. It was still labor, mind you. But at the top of that spiritual mountain was a view—a view of God, others, and myself.
Now, could I have experienced this somewhere else, somewhere more conveniently located? Sure. And I now do. But there is also something about prayer that is a journey, a series of tests, like scaling a mountain, away from cell reception, fully removed, after which you’re rewarded with a gratifying and joyful view.
As I said, these days, I engage in more prayer and extended prayer away from the mountain. I can’t say that this is solely because of my experiences up on the Prayer Mountain, but it certain played a part.
Sidney Yen, 07/04/2017
Praying on the mountain
In the Bible, Jesus showed inspirational examples of praying and talking to God the Father, on the mountain. As the Lord’s disciple in the modern age, I followed His example and frequently went to a fasting prayer mountain in Scott Valley, CA to have a quiet time with the Lord Jesus and the Heavenly Father. It was peaceful, and inspirational, and I felt very near to God, and just like Psalm 3:4, “I was crying to the Lord with my voice, And He answered me from His holy mountain.” To me I feel that I am intimately talking to Him and listening to His voice in person.
It was once on the prayer mountain 4 years ago, I received a clear calling from the Lord for serving Him in full time after I anxiously prayed for His confirmation of His calling to me. And I was then determined to quit my secular job and get equipped with the schooling of a seminary.