When my prayers lack focus and direction, I walk. And when I walk and pray, I have an ongoing panorama of ideas for prayer that is specific and detailed. Prayerwalking unleashes my spiritual imagination.
Several years ago, I hadn’t heard the term prayerwalking, but since then it has become my favorite way to pray. I first came across the term in a book on prayer and missions that I was consulting for a class I was teaching. I was fascinated by the book’s descriptions of people who journeyed to other places to walk and pray. I was intrigued by the answers to prayer they saw and encouragement they gave and received. My response to the narratives about prayer walking was awe at God and the desire to be a part of such prayers.
My husband and I began to talk to others about traveling somewhere to prayerwalk, even though we had never done any prayerwalking. One thing led to another and soon ten of us were committed to go to Southeast Asia on a prayer journey. In the meantime, we sought to be better informed. A primary resource was Prayerwalking: Praying Onsite with Insight by Steve Hawthorne and Graham Kendrick. About this time, we had to stop ourselves and ask, “Hadn’t we better try prayerwalking here at home before we go overseas?” So we prayed in the neighborhoods and communities of the participants of our group.
Subsequent to that initial journey, I have been on three more overseas and have, of course, prayerwalked at home. I have met people who have done much more prayerwalking than me. I have also discovered that people can mean different things when they talk about prayerwalking. I don’t see anything wrong with how others define it, but I want to share why prayerwalking is meaningful to me and to encourage you to try it.
Walking and Praying
One view of prayerwalking is to simply be walking around while you pray. It can be compared to prayer sitting or prayer standing. It is just a body posture that the person assumes during a time of prayer. So someone walking to work in the U.S. might pray for the church in Uganda and call it prayer walking. And it is true. The person was walking and praying.
Another view of prayerwalking sees that the place where the pray-er walks is especially significant. They may speak of claiming a particular place or area for Christ while circling it, much as the Israelites circled Jericho. Others might talk of praying against territorial spirits by walking and praying in an area. In this view the combination of the physical place where the prayer occurs is crucial to its effectiveness. From this perspective, prayerwalking is often regarded as spiritual warfare.
As I wrote previously, these perspectives on prayerwalking are valid. I have prayed in these ways. However, I would like to describe yet another perspective on prayerwalking. It is the one that I use most often. From this point of view on prayerwalking, the act of walking while praying helps the pray-er remain alert and the prayers focused.
I will be the first to admit that I am not much of a prayer warrior. My prayers are often short and distracted. I have been known to literally fall asleep in prayer meetings. Listening to one person pray a long prayer seldom holds my attention. And if the person is praying in a warm room and my hands are folded and my eyes are closed, well… However, keeping my body moving by walking keeps my brain alert and moving as well. So one benefit of prayerwalking is that it is physically energizing.
Prayerwalking also solves another problem that I have: to know what to pray about. Sometimes I can think of things to pray, but sometimes I can hardly move beyond, “God bless so and so.” I lack focus and direction--as I said, my prayers tend to be short. However, if I am walking in an office, in a neighborhood, or in another country to pray, then I have an ongoing panorama of prayer ideas. My prayers become more specific and more detailed.
An ongoing panorama of prayer ideas
How it unfolds goes something like this. About my office, if I see stacks of papers or files on a coworker’s desk, then I can be led to pray for the backlog of work that the person might have. I might see photos of a co-worker’s family and so I know to pray for him or her as a spouse and parent, not just a co-worker. I can see who the person sits near all day and can pray for relations between individuals.
Or in my neighborhood, I might happen to walk by a high school and be reminded to pray for the education of the teens and the work of the teachers. Then once I have prayed for the obvious, pupils and teachers, I might see food being unloaded, and I know to pray for the nutrition of the students and for the cafeteria workers. Maybe as I circle the school, I would see a dumpster and be reminded to pray for the maintenance workers. Then I move on to think of others who work there: principal, nurses, secretaries, librarians, etc. The dumpster could trigger thoughts that go beyond the literal to the figurative. I might pray about the garbage that wants to control the minds of teenagers. Are they learning sound principles in class, through the computer, and in their homes? I can pray that they are.
Perhaps I am present when school gets out. I might see students light up cigarettes once they get to their cars, so I am reminded to pray for the health of the young and for their freedom from drugs. Or perhaps, I see a couple in a passionate embrace outside the building. Then I move on to pray for teenage sexuality. All these ideas can flood my mind, specific ideas that I would be unlikely to think to pray about when sitting at home.
Prayerwalking can be a full sensory experience. For instance, moving even further from home, when I was in Southeast Asia, I saw people offer incense to idols, and the pungent aroma of the incense wafted to my nose. So I prayed for the spiritual lives of the citizens. Or I encountered a young woman yelling at a group of young men who were hassling her. The sound of her anger and indignation led me to pray for the treatment of women in that culture. Or seeing bedraggled women and children begging on the sidewalks, in the full blast of the midday heat, would have me pray for those trapped in poverty.
With all of the inspiration before my eyes, I find that I can pray for hours rather than minutes. And when I walk and pray with a friend, our ideas can stimulate each other. It is as if the two of us are on a walk with Jesus. So if you have read this far, try it for yourself. Take a walk and pray for all that you observe around you.