Last night, my church took some time to go prayer walking through the neighborhood. This was part of our preparation for this summer’s VBS. But many people had never been on a prayer walk before last night. Maybe you’ve never been on a prayer walk? Here is what I shared with them. I hope it will encourage you to take up the practice.
What Is Prayer Walking?
Jesus said, “Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together” (John 4:35–36).
The disciples were used to physical sowing and harvesting taking places at different times of the year. There was a four month gap between casting seed and harvesting something good. But when it comes to the spiritual harvest, Jesus says there is no delay. The word is being sown and the harvest is coming in at the same time.The gospel is going out and people are responding.
But the disciples need to see it. Jesus could have said, “the fields are ready” but what does he say? “Lift up your eyes” to see the fields ready for the harvest. Why did he tell them to look and see it for themselves? Because it would help unites the mind and the heart. They will be more invested if they saw the need for themselves.
This is what prayer walking is about. We are not reclaiming ground from territorial spirits, or driving out demonic strongholds (at least, I’m not advocating that sort of activity). Instead, I’m thinking about what John Smed says: prayer walking is “Praying on site with insight. Praying nearer and clearer.” As you walk, you are seeing the people firsthand. You see their situation:
- financial (old or nice homes);
- social (pride flag in the yard);
- relational (kids’ toys in the back);
- spiritual (Ramadan decorations).
All of this gives you better, specific insight to prayer. Your heart is stirred as the need becomes real. We begin to develop “harvest eyes.” That is, we become more like Jesus who saw the crowds and had compassion on them.
How Do I Go Prayer Walking?
There is nothing special about walking. We could do this driving as a family or alone. But walking does force you to slow down and creates a greater connection to the area. My suggestion is that you pray with at least one other person, but no more than four. It’s easy to be encouraged when praying with others. So, pray out loud. But don’t hog the prayer time. Offer short prayers and “pass it around” so others can chime in quickly, possibly picking up the topics where you left off. Pray for:
- the general needs of the community;
- specific needs seen around homes;
- willingness for people to listen to the gospel;
- remembering to keep a kingdom focus.
The group can pray for themselves as well. You can pray that you and your fellow prayer walkers will:
- confess fears or lack of concern for the lost;
- develop “harvest eyes” when seeing people;
- develop kingdom priorities like Jesus;
- rejoice to part of God’s work in the world.
If you meet someone outside and they wonder what you’re doing, say, ‘Hello!’ Then, simply explain that you are praying for the neighborhood. You believe God is good and you want his blessing on your neighbors because you care about them. Ask if they have any specific needs and pray for them right then (if the person is okay with it). Be sure to get their name and offer yours along with some contact info. You can leave a gospel tract with them if you are well-prepared.
A Personal Testimony
My first and most powerful prayer walking experience was in Niger. In the backside of the capital city, I walked with local missionaries down dirt streets, cutting a path through homes and businesses alike. Seeing, smelling, and taking in the culture helped me to feel the urgent need for the gospel. It reminded me of easily the missionaries could be discouraged with such a large task before them. It made me pray for them more intently that day and in the years to come.
As I was walking and praying, we heard the Muslim call prayer. Many emptied into the streets to pray, driving home the blatant idolatry of the city. It grieved me and made me long to see Christ honored in that city.
All of these things made my prayers more focused, more specific, and more passionate. This is the goal of prayer walking.