Prayer walking has probably been around since mankind first started praying. Some people have always found walking a great way to put aside time for reflection and prayer. Back in the 1980s and 90s this became a popular way for groups of people, from twos to hundreds and thousands at a time, to get out of their homes and pray for their neighbourhood, towns and cities. A popular book, first published in 1993, entitled Awaking our Cities for God – a Guide to Prayer Walking caught the mood of the moment. Their definition of prayer walking was
“praying on-site with insight.”
The authors wrote
“It is easier to direct our hearts with genuine concern for what fills our eyesight.”
The idea was that we should, in small groups or large, leave our homes and walk our neighbourhood being open to see what God would have us see are the needs of that locality, and to be moved to pray for those needs. This was a very good idea, and many people have done it, though it seems to be less popular as a way of praying than it perhaps once was. Prayer is difficult, even for those who have dedicated their lives to it, so we shouldn’t expect it to be easy for the rest of us. The authors of the book recognised this and wrote,
“Prayer walking can be tough to continue because of our ingrained impatience. We want to see immediate results. There are plenty of dramatic stories of prayer walking. But most prayer walkers report that prayer walking is a fairly quiet affair without a lot of hubbub and thrills.The city will go to the persistent. There is a slow-burn significance to prayer walking. Generations of harm are being undone. Seeds of new life are being planted, germinating beneath the surface of everyday life. Prayer walkers need to be patient because God is patient.”
The contents of this website, Prayer Eleven, is mainly aimed at individuals developing their own prayer lives, but the book I have quoted from is aimed at groups of Christians joining together to pray. So let me give some suggestions about group prayer walking from my own experience before focussing back on the individual. The two ways I have experienced group prayer walking have been in small groups and in couples. If you’re in a small group and want try some prayer walking I would really encourage you to do so. Perhaps do some praising and praying before you set off to welcome Jesus into your company, then do some sort of circular route stopping at certain points to lift what you can see around you up to God in prayer. I would encourage you to do the walking between points in silence so that God has a chance to prompt your hearts for prayer ready for the next prayer point. This is a great prayer exercise to do once a year, for example, around your church parish boundary or the area your church is placed in.
A more regular prayer walk might be done in twos. The way I have done this is with two people walking a set route (which could change each time you do the walk) praying out loud for the things you see as you continue to walk. That may sound a little scary, but actually most people will just assume you are two people walking in conversation. In fact you are three people walking in conversation! As the authors wrote,
“Prayer walking is abundantly simple: you are walking with Jesus.”
Part of the fun of this sort of prayer walk is that people walking past you simply don’t realise that you are praying for them!
In January 2001 I was living in the market town of Maidstone in Kent (United Kingdom). I wanted to try out prayer walking and I wanted to do something that I hadn’t done before. I made the decision to spend a Saturday morning walking round the outskirts of my town in prayer. I didn’t know how long it would take me or whether I would struggle with the distance, so I made no commitment other than to do it once to see how I got on. If it went well I would do it again. If not, then I wouldn’t. The walk ended up taking me five hours, with a couple of short comfort breaks at friend’s homes that happened to be on my route. Outwardly I was walking in silence, but inwardly I was interceding, praising, singing, throwing up arrow prayers and generally spending time in God’s presence as we passed through countryside, housing estates, past churches, shops, businesses, etc. Afterwards, when I reflected on the walk, I found that I had really appreciated the time spent with God. So I made the commitment to do the same walk one Saturday each month for the rest of the year.
When the year came to an end, and I walked the last walk, I had no expectation that anything dramatic was going to happen. It is now thirteen years hence and still revival has yet to arrive in the town of Maidstone. I cannot point to anything or anyone as proof of the effectiveness of my prayers for the town. But what I could see then, and still see today, is that it had a big impact on ME. For a block of five hours each month I was focussed on God and consciously spending time in his company. As I walked the streets, giving my attention to him, the Holy Spirit was blowing oxygen onto my own spiritual flame, fanning my desire for God, and increasing my willingness to walk with him, wherever that was going to take me. As it turned out, it presaged a whole new direction for my life which, at the time, I had no idea was coming.
Prayer walking does not have to involve a five hour gruelling walk, nor does it have to be a regular event. It can be a one-off occasion and last just ten minutes if that is what suits you. A walk to work, or to the shops, can be turned into a prayer walk when the mind is focussed upon God and we walk in the presence of Jesus. Doing some leafleting for your church in your street can be a great excuse for a prayer walk. For some people seeing all that is going on around them might be a distraction from prayer rather something that facilitates prayer. Some prefer the silence of their own room. But for others, prayer walking could be just the thing for stimulating their prayer lives, and only God knows where that will lead.
* Awaking Our Cities for God: A Guide to Prayer-Walking by Steve Hawthorne & Graham Kendrick (Also entitled – Prayer Walking: Praying on site with insight)