Psalm 120:1 “[A song of ascents.] I call on the Lord in my distress, and he answers me.”

Francis Bacon (1561 – 1626), an English philosopher and statesman brought an old Turkish proverb to fame when he retold the birth of Islam. As his story goes, during a public assembly the prophet Mohammed apparently called Mount Hera to come to him. When the mountain did not move he said, “If the mountain won’t come to Mohammed, then Mohammed must go to the mountain.” And so it happened that Mohammed went up Mount Hera where reportedly the angel Gabriel spoke to him, making him the prophet of Islam.

The point of the old saying is to take action in order to make things happen. The mountain was not going to come to the prophet; he had to go to it.

A proverb older than a millennium has evolved over the years. Growing up in Germany, I heard a different version: “If the prophet won’t come to the mountain, the mountain must come to the prophet”, which I always interpreted as a call to prayer.

In whichever version we have heard the proverb it leads to the same course of action: We go up the mountain to seek audience with God, which is exactly what Jewish pilgrims have done for thousands of years. On occasion of the feast of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles, the pilgrims ascend the temple mountain while singing and reciting certain Psalms that are listed in today’s Book of Psalms – specifically Psalm 120 through Psalm 134. It is safe to assume that Jesus Himself went up this very mountain numerous times reciting psalms on His many journeys to Jerusalem from Galilee.

Try to climb a mountain and sing at the same time – it does not come easy. Life is not easy, and problems seem particularly daunting at night. Instead of being dragged down, a believer needs to get up and pray. We can climb our prayer mountain anywhere in the world even if we live in the plains; climbing our personal mountain, we seek alone-time with God. Removed from distractions we can focus on our Maker.

On top of a mountain we are able to see far. Looking at our lives from a bird’s eye perspective, confusing and overwhelming problems become more clear and defined. We will be better equipped to deal with our issues once we descend from our prayer mountain.

What do we do when things go from bad to worse? The answer is simple: We ascend.