Have you ever heard of a prayer walk? Or have you ever heard someone talk about going on a prayer walk, but had no idea what that was? You are not alone. Many Christians don’t know what a prayer walk is, and it sounds so simple that it’s hard to ask for an explanation. Insecurities of how we are perceived ask, “Wouldn’t it just be praying while walking?” yet that doesn’t seem like it can possibly be the whole answer. The technical answer is that it is in fact praying while walking; but let’s break down what a prayer walk is, why you might want to do one, and how to go about it.
What is a prayer walk? A prayer walk is a time set aside by a person or a group of people to walk in a specific area and pray. Prayers may be focused on a certain topic, area, idea, or it could just be whatever God places on the hearts of the participants.
Why do a prayer walk? The Bible tells us that prayer prepares our heart (1 Peter 3:15), prepares us for spiritual battles (Ephesians 6:10-18), restores us (Job 33:26), helps us persevere (Luke 21:36), and both gives us forgiveness and helps us forgive (Mark 11:25). We are called to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18), and to be witnesses of God to the world (Matthew 28:19-20). These are the reasons we pray, and many of them are excellent reasons to do a prayer walk.
What are the benefits of a prayer walk? Prayer walks may not always seem immediately beneficial. Frequently prayer walks are one small, silent piece of a larger puzzle. God sometimes reveals his will to us slowly and through many interactions. There are times he speaks in one big burst, but frequently he is a quiet voice over time. You will find that prayer walks might bring peace to your heart, inspiration for ways to reach people, or a broken heart for something or someone you’d never even notice on a normal day. Prayer walks are powerful tools for connecting to God and serving your community. These benefits may take you time and more prayer to discover, so be patient. Sometimes the prayer walk does more work on you than you realize. You may start to see some of the revelations God is giving you from your time with him several days after the prayer walk. Know that even though a prayer walk is focused on the world around you, God will also use it to work on your own heart. Like all prayer, prayer walks will affect you internally as much as your prayers affect the world around you as God wills.
How do you do a prayer walk? That depends on why God is putting one on your heart. Maybe you just feel the need to pray in your neighborhood, maybe God has put your campus on your radar, maybe you feel God telling you to gather others and cover all the streets in town… There is no one-way to do a prayer walk.
I’ll give you two examples of how a prayer walk might look, then I’ll give you some action steps to follow when planning or leading a prayer walk.
Example 1 is an individual prayer walk: Jeff feels like God is calling him to do a prayer walk around his classrooms on campus. He has been hearing the song Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone) in church and on the radio and thinks this is a song God is putting on his heart for the walk. He decides to go for a prayer walk on Tuesday during his afternoon break and puts the song on repeat on his iPod. He doesn’t sing aloud, just hums quietly to himself as he walks to each room and prays silently by the door for the classes that will take place there, the students, and the teachers.
Example 2 is a group prayer walk: Sara feels like God is calling her to lead a group prayer walk in the downtown area of her city. She decides to invite the 6 women in her small group to join her next Saturday at 9am-10am for a prayer walk in downtown, and 4 of them can come. She chooses Psalm 51:10-12 as their focus as they pray for renewal in their own hearts and in town. When they pray for renewal, they mean a passionate fire to share their faith with friends and neighbors, and that people would come to know God in the area. They complete the hour-long walk she had planned, and 2 women need to leave, 2 others would like to keep going. Sara is able to stay with the 2 who want to continue, and they end up prayer walking until 11am.
Here are those action steps for planning a prayer walk:
PICK A TIME AND LOCATION
Choose the start and end locations for your walk. These may be the same place, or miles apart, but it’s good to know where you plan to walk ahead of time. Choose the time of day too, especially if you are inviting anyone. If you are a student, this might be your campus. If you are in a career, maybe it’s around your office or a neighborhood. A prayer walk can happen literally anywhere and anytime, so you could even do an impromptu one by yourself on a lunch or study break.
DECIDE WHAT YOUR TIMELINE IS
Put a time limit on it, so that you or the people you invite know how long the prayer walk will run. Recognize that you may go over and that people may need to leave at the time you originally said was the cutoff. This is not disrespecting you or God, they just have other obligations as well.
INVITE ANYONE YOU FEEL LED TO
You may not feel led by God to ask anyone to join you, but if you do then follow through on that. Make sure they know why you are asking them to join you, but don’t pressure them to join. Not everyone is comfortable with this type of worship, so keep that in mind.
CHOOSE A SCRIPTURE OR CHAPTER TO MEDITATE ON
You may not feel immediately surrounded by the Holy Spirit (or at all) during your prayer walk. If you are with a group, there will be times during the walk that you or others aren’t sure what to pray about. Have a scripture/chapter/song to meditate on as an opener for or to jump-start your conversation with God. It could be a favorite verse, one you feel God keeps presenting you with, or one that applies to what is on your heart.
DECIDE HOW YOU WILL PRAY
Will the prayer be silent, aloud, popcorn style (where everyone prays aloud as they feel led)? There are so many ways to pray, and it can be intimidating if you don’t set out the guidelines beforehand. If you are alone, you may want to pray silently; if you are in a group you may want to do popcorn prayer until there is a lull, then move on to a different style in the walk. This is up to you to decide based on what you think the purpose of the walk is, who is coming, and what you think God is leading you to do. Maybe you really feel God calling you to 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 ESV, which says, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” You could start the walk reading the verses aloud, and then begin praying. Maybe the same song (could be contemporary, a hymn, something you are writing…) has been stuck in your head on repeat for a week, maybe you start the prayer walk by singing it through, or sing it as you walk.
Here are a few tips for when you are doing your prayer walk:
START BY PUTTING ON YOUR ARMOR
Always start a prayer walk by praying for the group, or yourself if you are going alone, and putting on the armor of God as found in Ephesians 6:10-18. Praying for each other/yourself and praying for God’s protection in this way will help you get into the spirit of what you are about to do, but also help you prepare for any spiritual battle you may be about to face. Spiritual battle is a phrase that gets thrown around without much meaning for the new Christian or someone unfamiliar with Christianese/Church Jargon. This term refers to ways that Satan, the enemy, may deter you from the purpose God has given you. Spiritual battle could be as simple as feeling tired, so not wanting to finish if you are alone. If you are in a group, it could be a distraction that leads to ineffectiveness or time wasted. Praying to put on the armor of God helps you set yourself and your desires aside for this time of prayer, and helps put God first.
BE READY TO BE MOVED AWAY FROM YOUR PLAN
When it all comes down to it, you can plan for everything and get ten minutes into your prayer walk and have everything change. Maybe a street is blocked, maybe someone doesn’t show up, maybe extra people show up… Know that all your planning is only your planning. God may have a different plan for your prayer walk, so be open to that.
ENJOY YOUR TIME WITH GOD
This is probably the most important tip. This is a time for you to connect with God and pray about a specific area or specific people. You are interceding for those who don’t know how to pray to him or are bogged down and don’t feel they can. That is a mighty purpose. It doesn’t matter what goes wrong, or how tired you are, or if someone said something mean to you right before you started… What matters is that you (and maybe some friends) are spending time with the God of the universe! That is amazing; just bask in the fact that he runs toward you to talk to you. He loves you so much, and he loves spending this time with you. Enjoy that, and the feeling of connection with him.
Hopefully, this answers some questions and gives you some ideas for how to apply prayer walks in the real world. Tell us about your prayer walks, and how God has used or will use them in your life.