Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Review of Prayer Walking

Noah writes:


For my first prayer walk, I decided to go somewhere different. Instead of walking where I live I went with a friend around the area where he lives. As I walked around I discovered places I hadn’t been to before. 

It was a very run down area and I spent most of my walk praying for the area and the people who lived there. I didn’t just pray for the town and the people in the houses but also for maybe stressed and troubled people. And for a bit of my walk I prayed for the people waiting at the bus stop in the pouring rain. 

It was kind of weird doing it with a friend: in a way it felt slightly awkward because I wanted to talk with him but he was praying, and he probably wanted to talk to me but knew I was praying. But it was nice too, because I knew someone else was praying for people and he was right there with me.

Then a few weeks later I tried this again in the area where I live, on my own. I got lost in a housing estate, which I guess was good, because there were places I hadn’t seen before and I realised there was a lot of the town I didn’t know about. 

There were some old people sitting reading so I prayed for them as I went past, that they have a happy life, and some children playing outside with a ball, so I prayed for them as well. There were also some builders who looked like they were having a rough time doing some building work, so I prayed that they were safe in their job and that God would look over them. At points where there weren’t individual people I prayed for the street or the houses I was passing - just saying ‘I pray for this street’.

It was quite nice: it felt much less selfish than praying sometimes does. I often pray for myself and for other people in countries that are in conflict or in times of need, but it was much nicer praying for people closer to home who probably still needed praying for.

 I would recommend doing it by yourself or with one other person, but probably not with a large group - thinking about doing it with my church youth group I think that would be weird, as we’d be walking round in a big group but not speaking to each other, which wouldn’t feel very sociable. 

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Prayer Walking

Prayer walking is a way of praying for a particular area, when we might not know exactly what the people who live there need, or even who they are.

In prayer walking, two ancient traditions of prayer are combined: intercession and pilgrimage. The first thing you might think of when you think about prayer is praying for God to help other people. This is called 'intercession', asking God to act on behalf of people or situations which we believe need God's help.

But we can often feel overwhelmed and confused by how much there is to pray for. And sometimes we don't know what is needed, so it is hard to know how to put it into words. This can be especially tricky when we want to pray for an area, perhaps the area around where we live, or around our church, or an area which has had a lot of problems recently. We won't always know who all the people are that we are praying for, and the problems an area has may be very complicated.

As in the ancient tradition of pilgrimage, the very fact of walking means that we are 'walking the walk not just talking the talk'. We aren't just saying prayers, we are expressing our care for the place we are praying for physically, by walking around it. We are putting ourselves to some effort, not just sitting comfortably at home. And the action of walking takes up some of our conscious mind, so that prayer can flow more freely without us worrying too much about our exact words.

The main difference with pilgrimage is that there doesn't need to be a particular destination in mind. Instead of walking to get somewhere, in this kind of prayer walk the walking around an area is the point: the walk itself, up and down the local streets, park or shops, is itself the destination. You could of course choose to walk to a particular place, maybe a park, viewpoint or church, but the point of this exercise is not getting there, but praying for the places you pass through and think about on the way.

Before setting off, plan your route and tell someone where you are going and when to expect you back (a basic safety precaution). You can do this walk either alone or in a small group, maybe with a friend from church.

As you walk, pray – not out loud, just in your head – for the places you are passing. You might ask for God to bless the people who live in the houses you pass. If you pass a school, or shops, or offices, you could pray for the people who work there, and for all that they do. A particular business might make you think of things to pray for: a supermarket might spark off a thought about fair trade, or struggling farmers, or those who can't afford food easily. A newsagent might make you think about people in the news, or about the people reading their papers at home and what they are worrying about. A florist might remind you to pray for people who will be buying flowers this week to celebrate, or to mourn.

If you pass churches or other places of worship, pray for the people who meet there: depending on your local situation you might also want to pray for particular community tensions, or church projects.

Just let thoughts arise in your mind, and when you notice that you are thinking about something, pray for it.

There will probably be people passing you, on foot, car, bicycle or bus. You might pray for God's Holy Spirit to fill the lady who passes you walking their dog, or for the man just leaving the shop across the road to be aware of God's presence with him as he goes. If an ambulance goes past, pray for the paramedics and whoever they are going to help. A delivery van might make you think of praying for anyone whose birthday it is today, or for those who are lonely and never get letters or parcels.

As you return home, ask God to bless the whole area, and to show you how you can be a blessing to it. You might like to end by praying for your own home as you enter it.