“I want to go up to the mountain, that’s where we meet God. » How many sang this evangelical choir along the hiking trails? Synonymous with a greater proximity to the supernatural, the mountain lends itself to spirituality. But it would be wrong to reduce this experience to an individualized and subjective “I”.
The growing popularity of prayer mountains in postcolonial Christianities, on the contrary, testifies to collective, organized, long-term dynamics. These places permanently dedicated to prayer are characterized by a certain altitude, a reasonable distance from urban centers, and conditions of organization and tranquility conducive to the regular meditation of the faithful who remain, every day, to pray in these places. This requires adjustments: many prayer mountains are equipped with refreshments, sometimes dormitories, so that the Christians who go there can spend a few days in good conditions.
The objectives sought are threefold: to get closer to God, via a mystical experience desired away from everyday life; nurturing a discipline of prayer, especially in intercession and petition, through regular training, spiritual work; and establish different links with other Christians, of all denominations, who have come to join the scene, in order to unite voices and encourage each other. It was in Nigeria that the Christian prayer mountain movement began, in the 1940s, notably through the prophet Samson Akande, in Ori Oke Baba Abiye, in Osun State. There are now more than fifty of them – probably four to five times more in reality –, most of them spread across the south-west of Nigeria.
But we find them in many other African countries, such as Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, South Africa, Zambia and even Mali… Africa is not alone in experiencing this phenomenon. In South Korea, marked by a strong evangelical presence, prayer mountains are very popular. As early as 1982, according to researcher Tak Myong Whan, there were 289 South Korean prayer mountains. A phenomenon to be correlated with prayer tours, which share the same objectives.
That of the televangelist Oral Roberts, in the United States, dates back to 1967. In India, the Pentecostal ministry Dhinakaran is said to have built around fifty, serving as inspiration for Pastor Mamadou Karambiri, in Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso), who built his tower of Mount Carmel prayer in 2012. People pray there 24 hours a day, in small groups, like in the prayer mountains. In Azuza Street (Los Angeles), a brand new prayer tower, presented as a tool at the service of a “third Pentecost”, has also been put into service since April 2023. How can we understand the popularity of this phenomenon? Some attribute it to the desire to distance oneself from ecclesial institutions.
Others make the link with an increasingly tense socio-political context, fueling eschatological concerns and expectations of deliverance, like these Christians from South Kivu (DRC) of all faiths, who gather on the mountain by Ludjo. A phenomenon observed by Fidèle Lutanda, who asks: “Did God take refuge on mountains? »