I have heard that the old horse that our brother, Gus Nichols, rode to his preaching appointments, knew the way home so well that he delivered brother Nichols safely home on several occasions, even though his rider had fallen asleep during the journey. I solicited the piece below from John French, a dear old friend. When your horse can bring you home from a preaching appointment or knows to pause for prayer at the praying tree, you’re probably in a pretty good riding routine. I hope the most regular routines in my life are connected to heaven–routines like prayer and worship. If I had a horse–a smart horse– and if he was my daily transportation, I hope he would know the way to worship. I hope he would stop at a place of solace for daily prayer. Here’s the piece:
On a farm in West Tennessee in the middle of the woods there stands a special tree. The tree is not impressive by any measure; in fact it is deformed. A larger tree fell across this tree when it was a sapling, bending it over. This created a curvature at the base of the trunk.
What makes this tree special is that my father, now in his 80s, came across this tree one day on a walk through the woods. The curvature made a perfect seat for him to take a rest. While sitting there he took a moment to pray. Over time the tree became a favorite place for my father and myself to stop and pray as we rode horses on the trails through the timber.
Over the past few years I have invited many friends, family, and folks I want to know better, to ride horses on our farm. At the end of our ride, just before heading to the barn, we stop by what we have named the “praying tree” to say a prayer. We’ve stopped by this tree so often that my old mare stops all on her own. She knows a prayer must be offered before she can return to the barn. It is at the praying tree that I have often shared my favorite Psalm – 139. This psalm reminds me of God’s constant love, care, and presence in my life. I am always blessed by praying this psalm at the praying tree, and more than a few of my riders have been blessed there, too.