There is nothing new about prayer walking – it has been a powerful spiritual practice since ancient times both as a personal source of spiritual renewal and as a bold corporate way of taking responsibility for the streets, towns and cities we live in and love (think of Aidan, walking the lanes in Northumbria). Walking and praying is something many of us do as naturally as breathing.
I would like to further frame the practice of prayer walking within the broader category of “activating prayer”. Activating prayer is prayer that listens for what is in God’s heart for a particular location or people group, right now, in the present moment. It is prayer that submits a personal agenda and commits to acting on what the Father communicates in the moment. It asks the question, “What are you doing, God, and how can I help?” It is not static or stationary prayer, it is the best way I know to jump, physically, into the flow of God’s movement through history.
Kathleen Norris says, “Prayer is not asking for what you think you want, but asking to be changed in ways you cannot imagine.” I have never experienced a prayer walk in which I haven’t been surprised by God’s thoughts about a place, or simply ambushed by love for places that on the face of it are dark and smelly and maybe even a bit dodgy. Prayer walking is a powerful way to allow God to re-engage you with your surroundings.
Prayer walking is an exercise in humility. It is humbling to listen to God’s heart for places and people, his hopes and dreams and plans, and know that, deep down, you gave up on that bit of earth long ago. It is humbling to recognise that the needs you are witnessing cannot be met by you alone and that God wants you to partner with people you don’t know or are unsure about. One of the greatest unexpected joys of prayer walking for me has been the collaborative relationships that have formed with people who have an unequivocal territorial commitment to a patch of land and will do whatever God asks in service of it.
While simple in practice, you walk and you pray and listen and then DO what God asks you to do, prayer walking is all about reclaiming territory. The outcomes are many and varied – you just never know what God is going to do! Over the years through prayer walks I have seen numerous small groups of passionate Christians form, eager to transform their neighbourhoods in multiple ways. I have seen people come to faith on prayer walks, healings have taken place both physical and emotional. I have experienced drastic atmospheric changes in neighbourhoods with streets changing from cold and unfriendly to warm, chatty and open to spiritual conversations all because a group continued to walk and pray and respond to what God was asking them to do.
Where we live and why we live there is part of God’s redemptive plan for our nations. Prayer walking reminds us physically that we inhabit a piece of land that God loves and has plans for. When we are able to hear those plans and co-operate with them we step into adventure!
At its core; prayer walking is simply prayer with “boots on”. It is prayer with a posture of eyes-open readiness to engage with whatever crosses your path. It is active and at times highly extroverted as God asks you to engage with people he has readied in advance. It usually results in collaborative partnerships as God begins to saturate a territory with intercessors. It is not new or complicated but ancient and powerful with a long history in the UK. As I listen again to people’s hearts for their cities and neighbourhoods post-pandemic, I hear a hunger to connect deeply, to meet needs and to combat the isolation that has impacted all of us. Prayer walking is a tried and true way to take the temperature of a community from God’s perspective, to gather “fresh intelligence” from heaven and then to act!
Let’s Get Walking
- Before you walk, ask God where He wants you to go. It is easy to assume you know the answer to that question but ask it every time. Over time you will find your “patch”- the place God has given you authority to steward in a special way.
- Ask God for protection as you walk. You can pray through Ephesians 6:10-18 and put on your spiritual armour.
- Hit the road. Walking in pairs or threes makes it easy to hear each other and pray in agreement. Plan to be out no longer than an hour or so, weekly, if possible, with time at the end to debrief and note down themes – prayer walking is tiring!
- Look around you. This is prayer that engages the senses. Stay alert and aware. Remain open to interactions with people God may have sent your way. Bless the good things you see to increase and flourish. When you notice evidence of darkness ask God for His perspective and pray in agreement with Him.
- Pray in agreement with others. Hopefully you have at least one or two others to walk with. Listen for themes and agree with each other in prayer.
- If you are struggling to pray – speak scripture or worship together as you walk.
- Be attentive to what God is asking you to do and do it! Keep asking Him what He thinks as you walk.
- When you are finished take time to debrief what you heard with each other and record themes. Over time your prayers become hyper-focused and targeted as you discern more fully God’s plans for your patch.
- Ask God to increase your numbers. I love John Dawson’s statement, “United prayer is a declaration to the heavenliness that a community is ready for divine partnership.” Who can you ask to join you?
C’havala Crawley works with Novo in the UK primarily catalysing prayer in communities. Her passion is to help people to listen and align with what God is doing in their neighbourhoods and to equip and resource them to that end.
Novo UK https://novouk.org/mission is a band of creative missionaries sent to multiply movements of the gospel in the UK and beyond.