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How to Go On a Prayer Walk

If you’ve ever been invited to go on a “prayer walk,” you’ll probably resonate with that slight feeling of hesitation. Maybe it’s feeling apprehensive about doing something you’re not used to doing. Or maybe you’re afraid it’ll be an awkward experience. Or maybe you just don’t know what a prayer walk is exactly.

For whatever reason, the term “prayer walk” feels a little uncomfortable for most of us, and I wanted to share a few thoughts from my own experience of it last night with my church small group.

What Is a Prayer Walk?

I’ve concluded from my two times prayer walking that a prayer walk is NOT:

  • anything more “spiritual” than other forms of prayer
  • pressure to prove your commitment as a Christian
  • something you do to look good to God or to others
  • the scariest thing in the world

A prayer walk CAN be (when done in a group):

  • an invitation to try something slightly outside your comfort zone
  • an activity to connect with others
  • a time to silently reflect
  • a way to intentionally think “outward”

Description of a Prayer Walk

For someone trying to figure out what a prayer walk is if they haven’t been on one, this is what a prayer walk looks like:

  1. Someone initiates and sends out an invitation. This can be a church small group leader, a friend, an advocator. Prayer walks can be done alone as well.
  2. The leader picks a time and place. This is the only REAL requisite, because a time and a place is what you need in order to go on a walk anyway.. For our group, we chose to meet at 6:30pm in our church foyer.
  3. Coffee and tea are provided (optional). While we waited for everyone to arrive.
  4. The leader give some backstory and instructions. I think this step is important, and kudos to our leaders for doing it well. Not everyone has had an experience going on a prayer walk before. Not everyone comes in with the same expectations. For our group, our leaders reiterated some of the things I’m sharing now: namely, that there is no “right” way to do prayer walking. That there is no pressure or expectation to pray out loud or to talk to others during the activity. That prayer walking is as much listening to God and reflecting as it is praying.
  5. The leader give more specific instructions. This includes things like how the group will split up, how long to walk for, when to come back together. We chose to split up into groups of 3-5, separated by gender. (My first prayer walk we went in one big group of around 20).
  6. We had a handout with locations and written prayers (optional). To relieve the pressure to feel “eloquent” in our prayers or to spontaneously come up with things to pray for, our leaders provided a list of ten places/landmarks and areas to pray for. This list included things like the police station (pray for safety and justice), Campbell City Hall (pray for community), neighborhood and residential areas (pray for family and home).
  7. We had a “test run” (optional) praying and walking around our church. This is where we introduced ourselves to our smaller groups.
  8. The groups go on their walks (and, they pray). The main event! We actually drove to downtown Campbell and chose to spent 25-30 minutes walking around there. My group had three other guys, and we alternated praying aloud for different things that came to mind. Sometimes it was as short as “bless the neighbors on this street” or “thank you God for our city workers who clean up the streets.” Other times, it was a longer prayer for places, people, our government at large, the various needs we saw in society. My group of four guys paused at the police station and spent a few minutes there praying under a street lamp. The rest of the time we walked and looked around. Half the time it was silent. The other half time someone would speak up from the group and pray out loud, or we’d say something we noticed, like “is that the water tower that supplies water to the down?” Or, just talking to each other: “left or right?” “Do you live nearby or are familiar with this area?”
  9. We met back together for a shared dinner at the designated time. No shame in admitting we are much better motivated by food than exercise or prayer! We enjoyed the fellowship and shared some reflections about our experience.
Photo by Sheldon Chang

Reflections from Walking and Praying

For whatever reason, a lot of us view prayer walking as a really high bar. It feels like a really spiritual activity to go out and “pray for people and places.” Maybe it strikes the same uncomfortability most of us feel when we’re presented with the idea of going out to “evangelize.”

Let’s remove some of the stigma around that. Do you pray to God? Yes? Do you walk? Yes? Awesome! You can go on a prayer walk where you do both at the same time.

The physical act of walking around actually just helped spur so many different things to come to mind. When we’re sitting indoors in a circle and praying with our eyes closed, our brains have to work hard to conjure up feelings, places, and people to pray for. When you are walking around, it’s a lot easier to see things and immediately see the connection to God.

“Oh, there’s the police station, and our country has really struggled with unrest when it comes to cases of racial profiling or police brutality. Let’s pray for the men and women in uniform who are dealing with all of that.”

“This restaurant is really popping! Thank you God for good gifts of food and drink. We pray for the people out and about and their safety driving back home at night.”

“I wonder who lives in this neighborhood, whether they have friends and community, and whether they know the love of God to them.”

You might encounter someone who is homeless or in need of directions. In fact, in our prayer group, we ran into a mother and her son in a wheelchair, who were stuck because the screw cap that kept the wheel on the axle had fallen off! So we spent a few minutes looking around for them, made sure they could get where they needed to go, and wished them luck finding a replacement part.

The Power of a Group

I’ll be real. I was so tired out from work yesterday that the last thing I felt motivated to do was to go out and walk and pray for others. But, the awesome thing about having a group is the camaraderie and momentum in numbers. I went along with it because I said I would show up. As we got started and overcame the activation energy needed to go over that initial hump, I found myself become more and more energized.

Hearing other people’s prayers prompted my own. The more generously I let my imagination go outward, to the people and places around me, the more I felt prompted to pray that way. God cares about this world and he cares about far more than I think about in my day-to-day. There’s no shortage of things to bring to him in prayer: thanksgiving, laments, intercession, blessing, bold requests.

In the end, it was a fun experience. I got to meet and connect with others, the same way people connect over pick-up soccer or jogging groups. I got to go on a calm walk on a nice, breezy evening in downtown Campbell. I enjoyed being reminded of God beyond my own work and thoughts that day.

If you’ve ever been invited to go on a prayer walk, consider it! It’s not scary. It can be as short as 30 minutes. It’s easier to get started with a group than on your own.

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