A serene refuge for prayer has quietly taken shape in Fountain.
Flat paths meander through groves of cottonwood and Chinese elm trees, while Fountain Creek merrily rolls along. A tangible sense of peace floats on the warm summer breeze. This is the Christian-based Gateway Prayer Garden, where anybody can spend a little quiet time talking with their creator.
“The garden is to serve not only the faith community,” said Gateway Prayer Garden Director Mark Spengler, “but those who are not of faith. You don’t have to be a card-carrying Christian to visit.”
Just east of Interstate 25 and south of Mesa Ridge Parkway, visitors will first see the 20-foot white open cross, a welcome center and a revival tent, where 150 people gathered for the garden’s grand opening in August. The large cross stands at the top of the Gateway Prayer Garden pathway, which has been laid out in the shape of a football field-sized cross with stone prayer benches.
Walk about 50 feet east of the garden and visitors will find a dozen or so acres of the mostly volunteer-built Fountain Creek Prayer Trails. The trail features seven numbered open spaces, each with benches for visitors to rest and reflect. Each space represents a sphere that impacts culture: arts and entertainment, business and commerce, education, family, government, media and the church. People are encouraged to sit in whichever sphere is calling to them and send up their prayers, questions or gratitude.
A shorter southern trail, directly across from the prayer trail, leads to more enclaves and benches that offer a bit more privacy.
God had two intentions for the garden, Spengler said. The first was to simply build a beautiful space where people can talk to their god. The second is to help people determine their purpose.
“Everyone who becomes a follower of Jesus has an assignment in life,” Spengler said.
“The second aspect of our mission has to do with people understanding how God has designed them, what he’s put in their heart, what their assignments are. We believe everyone has one. He’s involved in designing us before we’re born.”
The idea for the prayer garden, the only one of its kind in Colorado, was birthed many years ago by Max Greiner, a sculptor who was building his prayer garden in Kerrville, Texas. In 2005, during a trip to Denver, he felt called to pull off I-25, across from Fort Carson, and knew this would be the site of a future garden. Nothing happened, though, until 2016, when Greiner met John Pudaite, president of Colorado Springs’ Bibles for the World, at the National Religious Broadcasters convention in Nashville, Tenn.
Greiner told Pudaite about his visit and the site, and Pudaite serendipitously knew the owners of the land, Ted and Audrey Beckett, owners of Beckett Development. Pudaite came home and shared Greiner’s hopes for the garden with the Becketts, who spent much of their lives and marriage raising money through land development to support mission work across the world. The couple donated $2 million in land to make the garden a reality.
“The Fountain Valley and whole Pikes Peak region needs a place where they can cry out to God anytime, night or day,” said Audrey, president of the Gateway Prayer Garden board.
“So many churches are closed or locked and there isn’t a place people can go. There are several gardens now around the U.S. where they have crosses along freeways and highways. It gives people a place to stop and pray and seek the Lord. The Lord impressed upon us he’d given us this land and wanted it used for that purpose.”
The prayer garden is far from finished. Plans include sculptures, a water feature and Scripture tiles in the pathway, as well as a life garden for those struggling with unwanted pregnancies or those who have ended pregnancies, an area for first responders, and an area for students and youths.
There are also plans to build two more buildings: a Hall of Heroes, filled with stories of those who have used their faith to persevere through persecution, and a Hall of Declaration, where visitors can see in real time what’s happening around the world through streaming video and pray for those in need, and to also better understand their own life assignment.
Those plans are dependent on two things — donations and volunteer work. Spengler does his best to spread the word about the garden in the community. Churches have held services on the property and youth groups have visited.
“The vision is quite large,” Spengler said. “Colorado Springs has a gazillion Christian nonprofit organizations, and we’d like to think people praying together will help make a positive difference in this city and county.”
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