Coming Out of the (Prayer) Closet (Jul – Aug 2009)

By Matt Dabbs

by Perry P. Perkins
July – August, 2009

“Then the LORD said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days.” ~ Joshua 6:2-3

ChristiaNation?Several months ago, my home church began organizing bi-weekly prayer walks throughout our community. We started with just a handful of walkers, and now have half-a-dozen groups that walk and pray for their neighborhoods twice a month.

Prayer walking is, just as it sounds, simply the practice of praying while walking, and targeting our prayers on those things we see, experience, and are directed to around us and we make a conscious effort to listen to the Holy Spirit, and intercede for the area we walk.

The Bible tells us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), and since walking is something many of us do regularly, it follows that part of the “without ceasing” command would include our walking. If you’ve been raised (as I was) to believe that prayer is something we do alone, in silent reflection and behind closed doors, remember that John 15:7 tells us that God hears all prayers offered by those who abide in Christ, regardless of location or surroundings.

One of the first questions that we are often asked is, “can’t we just pray at home?”

The answer is, of course, a resounding “YES.”

Not only can we pray at home, but we should!

I asked Jeni Bullis, who leads the prayer walk ministry at Living Hope Community Church, if there was something special about prayer walking, as opposed to any other type of intercession.

Jeni told me that, from her perspective, a prayer walk really is nothing more than praying and walking.

“The walking part is specifically to keep at the forefront of your mind the neighborhood and people you are intending to pray for,” she said. “Some find that when they close their eyes and sit down to pray, they get sleepy, or distracted, and struggle to stay focused. So, in that way it can be very practical. You could reach the same goal standing in one place and praying. The point is to pray.”

Prayer walking is simply a way to take our intercessory prayer out of the closet and into the streets. It is “Intercession on Location.” We may think we know what and whom to pray for in our neighborhoods, but when we’re out walking, we are seeing, smelling, and hearing our community in ways that we never can within the comfort of our own walls.

Needs are recognized, relationships are formed, and prayers are offered that often wouldn’t be from the solitude of our “prayer closets.”

As a body of believers, we have found that regular, organized prayer walks help the individual and the congregation form a sense of “ownership” of their own communities and foster a greater empathy and desire to reach out and evangelize those communities.

Here are some tips for organizing your own prayer walk ministry:

1. Start walking.

Okay, this may sound a bit over-simplified, but the truth is that there’s a big difference between talking and walking. What’s the minimum congregational requirement for a prayer walking ministry?

One.

Or, to put it more bluntly…you.

Let folks know when you’re going to walk, where you’re going to walk, and roughly how long the walk will last. Then walk. Whoever shows up at the appointed time is part of the prayer-walking team!

2. Have a plan.

The second most important item is to have a plan. Drive through the neighborhoods you’re considering walking in. Are there safe walking areas (ie: sidewalks) the entire route? Designated crosswalks at busy intersections? Is the route “stroller-friendly” or should you plan to have babysitting available? Does your route take you past a park, or buildings with access to public bathrooms?

Designate group leaders, and try to match the physical abilities and limitations of your walkers with the terrain.

Folks who aren’t physically able to participate in the walks, can still be involved if there is a room at the church, or in a home, where they can meet and pray at the same time. This is a great opportunity to keep your walkers, and their safety, covered in prayer. If possible, have both groups come together at the end of the walk to discuss their experiences.

3. Be prepared.

Consider, in advance, what scriptures you can be praying over your community. Is there poverty? Is it a high-crime area? Are there schools along the way, or government buildings?

Print out some scriptures that address these topics and have them handy to “prime the pump” as you start walking. Also, bring a pen and a pad of paper to take notes of prayer needs that can be passed along to your pastor and congregation.

Consider yourself “spies in the promised land” and come back home with a report!

4. Be Safe

We make it a habit only to walk in areas that are “pedestrian friendly” (see above) and someone outside the group always knows the route, and what time we left. A charged cell phone is always a good idea, as is a full water bottle.

Also, we make it a rule, as a group, to prayer-walk only during daylight hours.

5. Follow Up

What happens on the prayer-walk shouldn’t stay on the prayer walk!

Have walkers share their experiences and insights with the church body and each other. Not only will this give everyone in the congregation a better view of the communities needs, but it may encourage them to pray for their own neighborhoods, and perhaps even walk as well.

When God commanded Joshua and his soldiers to march around the city of Jericho, and they obeyed, the walls tumbled and the city was given to them.

He can do the same for us.New Wineskins

Christian novelist and blogger, Perry P. Perkins is a stay-at-home dad who lives with his wife Victoria and their two-year-old daughter Grace, in the Pacific Northwest. A student of Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writer’s Guild, Perry has written for numerous Christian magazines and anthologies and his inspirational stories have been included in twelve Chicken Soup collections as well.

Examples of his published work can be found online at www.perryperkinsbooks.com

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1581 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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