George Bowers Sr.: Praying on Signal Knob
On the northern end of the Massanutten Mountain, Signal Knob stands likes a sentinel watching over the town of Strasburg and the surrounding countryside. Its stately summit can be seen from many miles and was used by both sides during the Civil War as a strategic lookout and communications post.
What many do not know about this beloved peak, however, is its earlier use about the year 1750. According to John Wayland’s, “A History of Shenandoah County Virginia,” two members of a monastic order of the Church of the Brethren built a small cabin near the pinnacle of Signal Knob as a place for morning prayer. These two, remembered only as Ezekiel and Antonius, came from an early settlement on Sandy Hook that was established as an offshoot of the Ephrata Brethren from the Cloister in Pennsylvania.
Because Virginia was still under British rule at the time, such unsanctioned religious expressions were frowned upon by the Church of England and thus the colonial government. News of this prayer cottage reached Winchester along with some additional conjecture as to what all took place there and the sheriff was dispatched to investigate. Upon his arrival, he found the cabin destroyed and the logs lying randomly nearby. The prayer warriors apparently feared legal penalty and preferred to avoid conflict rather than incite it, and dismantled their rude chapel.
Having hiked to the summit of this amazing peak, I too have been moved to pray. From this vantage point, one can see most of the Northern Shenandoah Valley as well as numerous towns and communities below. With a good pair of binoculars on a clear day, portions of Routes 11, 50, and 55 can be seen as can the ever- busy Interstates 81 and 66. From the height, one can oversee thousands of people going, coming, working, playing, and living in the shadow of The Knob. For anyone with half a heart, it’s hard not to be concerned for all those souls below and to whisper a prayer for mercy.
This view from on high reminded me of Jesus on the Mount of Olives weeping over Jerusalem just days before his crucifixion. His heart broke for the masses who had little or no knowledge of the momentous events unfolding before their eyes, or of the very son of God who was in their midst. In Luke 19:42, he said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace — but now it is hidden from your eyes.” Their refusal to recognize and embrace the Messiah would result in the destruction of the city and the deaths of over a million of its citizens in AD 70 by the Romans.
As I stood on Signal Knob, I wondered how many of those below have a clue today of what will bring them peace. So many are rushing here and there searching for happiness or for the money they think will bring it to them, while most ignore the peace and joy available freely through Jesus Christ. Sadly, there is little peace in our hurried lives. Our factories, schools, courts, businesses, homes and even our churches are often filled with conflict and division. More deeply, so many human hearts yearn for the shalom-type peace that only comes through a personal relationship with the Lord himself.
I was also reminded of Joel’s words 800 years before Jesus when he cried, “Multitudes in the valley of decision!” (Joel 3:14). I prayed then and I continue to pray now for the day when all of us in this great Shenandoah Valley will make the decision to receive and obey the prince of peace.
As we approach the week when we observe the Lord’s triumphal entry, Last Supper, betrayal, death, and resurrection, let us invite him to grant us his peace that passes all understanding. Let us invite him into our hearts and homes, into our marriages, our churches, our schools, our factories, our automobiles, and into the stressful circumstances that characterize our everyday lives.
Take some time to pray for yourself and for your family. Pray for your church and for the schools and businesses in your community. Pray for those driving up and down the highways of this valley and for our leaders who make decisions for us. Finally, pray that each resident and visitor of this great Shenandoah Valley would know, experience, and embrace Jesus, the one who brings everlasting peace. In Jesus’ peace, George
George Bowers Sr. is the senior pastor of Antioch Church of the Brethren and has authored 10 books including his latest, “Valley Verses, Volume IV,” which is available at Four Star Printing and Shenandoah Stuff. He can be reached through www.georgebowersministries.com or at firstname.lastname@example.org.