Praying On-Site with Insight: The Power of Prayer Walking
On Tuesday mornings, I have the honor of prayer walking with a group of folks in St. Louis. We specifically target areas where we feel the Holy Spirit is directing us. Sometimes that means we walk through a desolate city such as Kinloch, and other times it can be an area where there’s tremendous poverty, gang activity, or recent shootings. Although my friends and I tend to go into rougher areas to prayer walk (and on Saturday mornings, my friends give away clothing, food, and minister to individuals), prayer walking can happen anywhere, in any neighborhood.
Prayer Walking on a chilly morning in Kinloch, MO
Why is it so important to make the extra effort to take your prayers directly into your community? My friend Kurt Wilson from Pray for the Lou talks about the importance of “praying on-site with insight.” Something happens when we choose to walk and pray: our eyes, both physically and spiritually, are opened to the people and buildings around us. In the natural, it’s easier to see people and recognize their needs. You’re not safely speeding past the homeless guy holding the cardboard sign, you’re now slowly walking past him. Instead of engaging in sanitized and safe “window sympathy” (or window judgment, if I’m being transparent), you’re confronted by the sight, sound, and smell of a person who needs assistance. In our heart, the person is no longer relegated to a faceless social issue, but he becomes a real human with real needs. Proximity breeds compassion.
Kurt Wilson leading a prayer walk on school grounds after a shooting.
Praying onsite with insight also engages our spiritual senses. We can often discern community strongholds such as addiction or abuse. We learn to sense when a particular storefront is housing something wicked and when it’s simply a rundown building. We can even feel the hope and life in certain neighborhoods or around certain churches and non-profits. For whatever reason, this specific insight isn’t always revealed in the prayer room - God reserves it for those whose feet are willing to walk the streets in prayer. (And I’m saying this as a person who leads prayer rooms and believes in their vision.)
Discarded Furniture spotted during a prayer walk in Kinloch.
There may be a few of you reading this that wonder what you can do if you’re unable to walk due to physical issues. Have you considered prayer driving? Before you head directly home after picking up groceries, take an extra loop through your neighborhood and pray for the families in the homes or apartments you see. When the weather is conducive, head to your local park or mall and sit on a bench and pray for the people who pass you. It’s amazing how much you will begin to discern in the Spirit about people when you make yourself available to the Lord and choose to be a little uncomfortable. Plus, you never know what spontaneous God-conversations will spring up by your choosing to simply be present.
I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. Joshua 1:3
Here are some basic ground rules to get you started:
Prayer walk regularly. Make a commitment before the Lord to prayer walk on some sort of regular basis until it becomes a habit. I try to go out once a week with my friends. Perhaps some of you can even do it every day when walking your pup. Or, make a 3 month biweekly commitment, so it doesn’t feel overwhelming as you get started. Whatever it is, choose to be consistent and get started.
A prayer walk can be short. Prayer walking does not have to last for hours. If you work at an office, quickly pray through your building before your coworkers arrive. Or, prayer walk around your block or cul de sac. Prayer walk your company’s parking lot on your lunch break. (I often quietly sing worship songs or have worship music playing on my phone when I grocery shop….nothing too rambunctious or loud, but when people come into my vicinity, they can hear the worship and hopefully experience the presence of God.)
Grab a friend. When at all possible, prayer walk with a friend, especially if you’re going into unfamiliar neighborhoods. You can design your time together with a combination of conversation and prayer….just make sure to actually pray and not just chat. As an example, my group on Tuesdays always concludes our prayer walk together with a group prayer and then often punctuates our walk with group prayer, but there’s also conversation and private prayer that happens.
Prayer Walking with Ferguson Prayer Furnace friends
on Pray for the Lou Day in Ferguson, MO.
Don’t ignore people because you’re so focused on praying. Greet people if you pass them. If you feel safe, engage them in conversation and offer to pray for them. When we prayer walk on Tuesdays, people often stop their vehicles or walk up next to us and ask our group, “Hey, what are you guys doing?” We share that we’re prayer walking. It always makes me smile to see how much that news encourages the people we meet. Then, we ask if they have any needs for which we could pray. Most people are receptive and grateful to receive prayer when we meet them.
Praying for business owner in North City during a Prayer Walk.
Do you feel like you should be “doing” something as well as praying? Please know that prayer walking on its own IS doing enough. Having said that, you should know that our group picks up bullet casings. We feel like there’s something prophetic and healing about cleaning up the physical reminders of brutality and violence. You could always grab a trash bag and some latex gloves and clean up your neighborhood during your prayer walk. But remember, don’t feel like cleaning up the road is mandatory. Be led by the Spirit in whatever you do or don’t do.
Bullet casings retrieved during one prayer walk in Kinloch, MO.
I believe wholeheartedly that prayer walking is one of the tangible ways we bless our communities. In a year that’s fraught with societal chaos, division, and uncertainties, let’s make prayer walking a priority and see how God will move!
P.S. Check out the new prayer walking app called Holy Ground, available for free on Apple and Android devices, co-created by 24-7 Prayer USA and Civil Righteousness. You can read about it in my next blog here.