In recent years, the City of New Orleans has been blessed by church groups traveling here to walk the streets and pray for our people. In most cases, they will divide into teams and accompanied by a pastor of one of our churches, walk the neighborhood around his place of worship and intercede for the residents.
It’s a faith venture from start to finish. The prayer-walkers do not know the people inside the homes and may never know what effect their intercessions had. Yet they come, they walk, and they pray.
We’re so grateful for these spiritual warriors.
Prayer-walking is not a new phenomenon. It may go back to the time of Moses when God’s people were tramping around the wilderness marking time until the older generation died off and the youngsters could inherit the Promised Land. Since the Lord was with them, it only makes sense that many of the people talked with Him as they walked.
As they crossed the Jordan River under Joshua, this younger generation of believers found themselves facing the “city of palms,” Jericho. Its massive walls sent a clear signal that taking this fortress would be no piece of manna. Clearly, some kind of divine intervention would be required. So, God stepped in with the strangest command.
The people of God were to walk around the city — that is, on the outside of its walls, of course — once a day for six days in complete silence. Then, on the seventh day, they were to repeat the process seven times, for a total of 13 laps. At the completion of the last lap, the people were to shout and the priests were to blow the trumpets.
At no point did the Lord tell the people what to expect at that last moment. The only thing Joshua said was, “Shout, for the Lord has given you the city!” They shouted, the horns blasted, and to everyone’s amazement, the walls of the city crumbled before them.
Is that the precedent for prayer-walking, circling a city in order that walls might crumble before the Lord?
At the Great Wall of China, Calvin Miller, Dan Crawford, and others with them prayed, “Christ, break every barrier to the gospel and open this land to free access of the gospel.”
“China has always been paranoid about the north (Mongolia) — a land of demons and conquerors and destroyers of culture; ergo, the Wall. But Beijing, a modern nuclear power, has outgrown all but its ancient symbolism where walls are concerned. The real barriers to the gospel are political and philosophical.”
In their book, “Prayer Walking: a Journey of Faith,” Crawford and Miller tell of their International Mission Board-sponsored journey to various countries of Asia in order to prayer walk. “We walked the Great Wall in prayer,” they write.
They continue, “There is a fearsome freedom in Christianity, for in such a freedom people learn the true meaning of things. They learn they are loved by Christ, and their whole idea of their worth to God is born anew in this new self-perception. To keep people in line politically, they must never come to know the true value of their lives and souls — the value they have in Christ. There is something unconquerable in the heart filled with faith. It is this unconquerable something the red star fears.”
I have read two or three small books and pamphlets on prayer-walking, but nothing as potent and helpful as this book by my friend Calvin Miller and his colleague, Professor Dan Crawford. Here’s their loaded definition of this spiritual exercise: “Prayer walking is intercession on location with information in cooperation against opposition for glorification.” Prayer-walking is a way of being on the scene without making a scene, they quip. It’s praying on site with insight.
People who engage in this form of intercession they call “borderline warriors.”
A missionary told of the stressful field where he serves: “Because of the intensity of the warfare here, I often feel as if I’m on the borderline between sanity and losing it. I think it’s on this borderline that the honing of Christian character takes place. We’re driven to the end of ourselves. We are completely dependent on Someone who’s walked the path before us and knows where to step next.” (p. 25)
Here are questions on prayer-walking Crawford and Miller address:
CAN’T I STAY HOME AND PRAY FOR PEOPLE IN OTHER LANDS AND COMMUNITIES? Yes, but we don’t. Going there changes everything.
DON’T I HAVE TO BE REALLY, REALLY PIOUS BEFORE TRYING TO PRAYER-WALK? Definitely not. This is not the domain of the super-spiritual.
DOES PRAYER-WALKING ACCOMPLISH ANYTHING? “In Russia before the fall of Communism, a man visited the churches and said, ‘There is no one attending these once-great Russian churches but children and little old ladies in tennis shoes.’ Then Lenin’s statue came down and the Berlin Wall was dismantled and missionaries from America began flooding the former Soviet countries. Someone said to the critic, ‘Never under-estimate the power of little old ladies in tennis shoes.'”
ISN’T THIS UNNATURAL? Calvin Miller says, “I love Jesus for immersing Himself in the midst of lost humanity. So I loved talking to Him from the back seat of pedicabs and taxis….”
On the practical side, Miller and Crawford suggest you do some research in the area before prayer-walking there. Be spiritually prepared. Wear comfortable clothing and walking shoes that are broken in. Take along a bottle of water, and walk with 2 or 3 people. Keep your eyes open and stay alert. Stop for intensive prayer as the occasion calls for it. Smile and be pleasant to people you meet. At the end of each day, keep a daily journal of your experiences and impressions.
Why is it important for us to be physically present when we pray for the people in a building, a neighborhood, or city? Since Heaven places the same value on our prayers that we do, this makes the people more real, the needs more urgent, our hearts more burdened, and thus our prayers more effective.
What walls in your city or neighborhood need to come down?
“For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ…” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5)
Lately, in between memorizing Scripture (Psalm 20 is the latest), I’ve been committing a few of Robert Frost’s most-loved poems to memory. Nothing heroic, just the three that are best known and most often quoted — “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening,” “The Road Less Traveled,” and the one I’m working on now, “Mending Wall.”
“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,” Frost begins. As he and his neighbor meet on a Spring day to walk the fence and replace stones that have fallen or been knocked off, they chat about the purpose of such fences since neither of them have animals. “Good fences make good neighbors,” the friend says.
Frost ponders that and thinks to himself:
“Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.”
The Acts of the Apostles chronicles the progress of the gospel of Jesus Christ as it overcomes various obstacles and barriers. The geographical barrier is surmounted in Acts 8 when the believers are run out of Jerusalem and go everywhere spreading the gospel (see 11:19). The racial wall was breached in Acts 10 when the Lord sent Peter to Joppa to bring the message of Christ to the Italian centurion and his family. The wall of ignorance began to fall when the Holy Spirit called Paul and Barnabas as missionaries in Acts 13. Social and economic barriers fell as the gospel spread. Finally, with the last verse of the entire book, everything is put into perspective.
“Paul was preaching the Kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.” (Acts 28:31) “No one forbidding him” is one word in the Greek: “akolutos.” It comes from “koluo” which means “to hinder.” The “a” in front negates it. That’s why Dr. Frank Stagg in his commentary on Acts translates the word “unhinderedly” and says that word is the theme of the entire book. He suggests this explains why Acts ends so abruptly — that Luke, the author, has written exactly what he intended and nothing more.
The gospel did indeed surmount all those early walls and barriers. However, every generation erects a new set of dividers and obstacles which Christ’s message has to face and conquer.
At this moment on the Northshore above New Orleans, the churches are in a battle to keep casinos out of St. Tammany Parish. Let them come in and new barriers and strongholds take root in the lives of people, making them more and more resistant to spiritual realities .
That’s where prayer comes in. That, and bold action in proclaiming Christ’s message.