The question is almost always the same, but the questioners have different expressions: A quizzical look, a questioning frown, a dubious tilt of the head.
“So, what is this ‘Prayer Walking’?”
Since any number of readers just asked the same question (and are trying to remember your immediate facial expression), here’s the answer:
Prayer walking is conversing with God while taking a stroll. A couple of Christians take a walk through a neighborhood or business district. While they walk, they pray.
On a recent prayer walk, we passed a neighborhood park. This inspired prayer for shrieking children and the frazzled parents and teens sneaking behind a maintenance shed to smoke. It was that simple; walk and pray.
It is amazing how something so seemingly mundane can be so profound.
- I have witnessed prayer walkers transformed from expressing deep doubts about the walks to becoming strong advocates.
- I have celebrated baptisms where the initial contact with those being baptized was made on a Prayer Walk.
- I have worshipped in churches where the first step in starting the congregation was a prayer walk.
Most prayer walks are organized by churches or mission associations. There are three primary motivations for the walks.
- Church leaders want to bless a neighborhood.
- Church leaders are trying to change congregational attitudes or shift the congregational focus.
- Church leaders are discerning whether to start mission work in a different community.
It would be difficult for prayer walks to meet these expectations if prayer were the only activity on walks. So much more can happen on a prayer walk.
When two or three Christians are walking and praying, they start to develop a sense of empathy for residents. It is not uncommon to meet residents. Ensuing conversations reveal to the walkers the hopes and fears of residents or community needs and opportunities.
After prayer walks, I often come back with a couple of ideas for responding to the experience. Once, I was inspired to research whether a church should start a latch key ministry for elementary school students; another time I looked into whether a congregation could provide music lessons for the community.
I do get pushback on whether prayer walking is effective. I usually remind the inquirer the first word in prayer walk is “prayer.” God has promised to answer prayers offered in Jesus’ name.
As to whether the “walking” aspect is effective, there are varying results. I’ve seen churches discover the keys to building relationships in a community, relationships that resulted in new people participating in congregations.
I can also give you examples of prayer walks where participants return to report nothing happened out of the ordinary. They walked, they prayed. The “walking” did not bear fruit beyond the prayers and fellowship.
My next post will unpack motivations for prayer walking. Until then, how does your congregation go about loving community around the church? Share your learnings in the comments or shoot me an email.
If you would like materials for prayer walking, go to the Resources page. For more content about prayer walking, consider this post: