Mom’s Prayer

Brenda ran to meet me, ready to shout at me for taking so long, eager to hug me for still being alive, and worried about my leg.

Dick Duerksen
Mom’s Prayer

The editor’s request was simple, yet challenging: “Please provide us a photograph of a mountain goat who is standing on an outcrop of rock looking out into a black canyon.”

“OK,” I thought. “No problem.”

Big problem.

I had photos of mama goats, billy goats, kid goats, many goats, and individual goats sleeping on granite boulders. No photos of individual goats looking out over a black canyon.

I asked the publisher for a few more weeks and began praying for the perfect photo to come my way. We were planning a trip through Glacier National Park in Montana, so maybe we could find a goat somewhere up on Going-to-the-Sun Highway and bribe him to stand on a rock and stare into a black canyon.

Thinking it might be worth a try, we drove the awesome curly road from west to east over the top of Glacier National Park. We were driving an old Dodge van, a vehicle that was just right for Mom, Dad, and three kids under eight. It was packed full of food, clothes, books, prayers, and cameras.


Near the top, where the road is narrow and the drop-off seems to go down all the way to Arizona, I spied a goat high on the mountain above us. I pulled into a wider spot that would have been perfect for a tiny Smart car, gathered my camera gear and promised my family that I would be “right back.”

Mom and the kids waved “good-bye,” and I headed up a granite waterfall toward my distant quarry. Mom, knowing that my “right away” might stretch to an hour, got out the home-school materials and set up school in the van.

“I couldn’t let anyone go outside the van,” Mom remembers. “There was a million-foot drop-off right out the van door!”

I hiked till my knees were ready to give out. Then I hiked some more, always following the elusive mountain goat. He was there, but always just over the next rise.

After an hour of hiking, the goat and I finally made friends. He wondered what I wanted, and I was praying God would help me speak “goat.”

“Please,” I said to the goat, “walk over to that granite rock and look into the black canyon to your left.”

The goat continued chewing on his banquet of bright yellow spring flowers.

I jumped up and down, begged, pointed to the rock. If he would just understand my need. I set up my tripod and prepared for a perfect 400mm shot.


Back in the van, my photographer’s wife was beginning to worry. Ninety minutes was a bit longer than she had expected. Worry, mixed with a large dose of frustration and blended with the voices of three kids, resulted in a mother’s moment.

“I was hoping he wasn’t lying up there with a broken leg,” Brenda remembers. “I was ready for him to return, and preparing to kill him when he did.”

The mountain goat finally heard me, or at least saw me pointing to the black canyon, and wandered over toward the canyon to see what was there. He stood, squarely in my “hoped for” photograph, in focus, and staring out into the inky black of the canyon.

It was perfect. Except that he was staring down and looked like he was so depressed he might jump.

“Please, God, have him lift his head and look over at me.”

The next picture was perfect.

I believe God answered my prayer because Brenda was kneeling in the van, pleading that God bring me back down the mountain.

I packed up my gear, turned around, and realized it was going to be harder to climb down than it was to climb up. My watch said I’d been gone more than 5 hours. Far too long! Not fair to Brenda and the kids. Hurry down.


Ten minutes later, I stumbled on a granite ledge, fell to my knees, and looked squarely into the face of a giant grizzly bear, who was only 30 feet away. A very tall and unhappy bear who was standing tall behind a small willow bush and roaring at me to “GO AWAY!”

I would have gladly obeyed, but her roar had turned my knees to butter.

“Kids,” Mom said in the van a thousand feet down the hill. “We must pray for Daddy. I feel like he may be in bad trouble right now.”

“Lord Jesus,” one of the kids prayed. “Please keep Daddy safe.”

The bear dropped onto all four legs and walked out from behind the willow bush, right toward me. The wind was blowing my way, and the bear smelled terrible. I begged God for help, but couldn’t remember what I was supposed to do if I met a bear. Was I to stand still or to jump up and down while making lots of noise?

Since I was too weak and terrified to do anything, I stood still and tried to taste as bad as I possibly could.

The bear stood again, sniffed the breeze, roared like a bull elephant, and then dropped to all fours and slowly walked away over the hill.

“Thank you for taking care of Daddy,” Mom prayed.

Fifteen minutes later my knees finally agreed to support me. I stood, haltingly, using my tripod as support, and headed slowly downhill. Five hours on the hill had left me with a painful limp, and a worried heart. I had been gone far too long!

“Look, Mommy,” one of the kids said. “There’s Daddy! I think he’s hurt his leg.”

Brenda ran to meet me, ready to shout at me for taking so long, eager to hug me for still being alive, and worried about my leg.

“I was ready to go find a park ranger,” she said as she helped me back to the car. “What time was it when you hurt your leg?”

I told her, and she smiled. Her smile made me feel better, even though I had not yet been forgiven.

“That’s exactly the time we had a special prayer for you.”

Then I told her about the grizzly bear.

Dick Duerksen, a pastor and storyteller living in Portland, Oregon, United States, is known around the world as “an itinerant pollinator of grace.”

Dick Duerksen