Many of the Psalms are effectively the prayers of a prayer walker – shared prayers that the whole community could pray (often as sung prayers) en-route on their annual pilgrimages up to Jerusalem. There are 14 psalms that are particularly associated with this (Psalms 120 to 134 the ‘Psalms of Ascent’). Like all good Jewish spirituality they integrated praise, hope, honesty, and challenge and at the same time were God-ward (“I lift my eyes to you whose throne is in heaven” 123v1) and out-ward (like the prayers of blessing in ps 128: “Blessed are all who fear the Lord.. you will eat the fruit of your labour..”)
Using journeys as opportunities for prayer continued for many centuries and is something we’ve only lost with the advent of modern technology but perhaps it might do us good to rediscover it.
3 ways to prayer walk
- Prayer walking to connect – for some of us our living arrangements make personal time to pray difficult – we might feel too self-conscious to go off for a quiet time or alternatively can never find a time when the house is sufficiently quiet! Getting outside to pray resolves this. For some of our church members their walk to work, dog walk, or scheduling in a stroll can create that space for God (and it makes it virtually impossible to fall asleep!)
- Prayer walking to overcome – the sort of prayer Jesus prayed was multi layered – praising, thanking or interceding for change. Sometimes we need to wrestle with God or get assertive in spiritual warfare. Standing on a hill or on the town moor or down by the Tyne you can do this with some freedom. We can cry out for healing for our friends, for revival for our city or for justice for the nations and raise our voice and our emotions accordingly. It’s liberating and often releases something in our spirits.
- Prayer walking to transform – lots of us try to pray regularly for our neighbours, for our city and for certain communities but when I get out into the streets or walk by the kids school or the university it brings the urgency of those needs home in a powerful way. Prayer walking our neighbourhoods is a powerful way to bring the needs of our communities before God and a good stimulus to ask around for what the prayer needs are. Perhaps you could take a walk tonight – pray for the businesses, the schools and the neighbours on your street. As we start to pray God changes our perspective towards others and blessing and peace start to come in a new way.
Getting practical – some questions…
- Place – Where could you go to pray that might help you connect to God undistracted for a bit?
- Purpose – What could you pray when you get there? Could you pray out some of those psalms of ascents in the coming days?
- People – Who does God want you to pray for at this time. Perhaps you could write this down and make it a priority.
Finally, a little story.
My friend Lee had enjoyed a really fruitful prayer life until he had kids but becoming a dad wrecked all his routines and he could never stay awake. Eventually he got desperate – what on earth could he do? He’d heard about prayer walking but didn’t want to look a complete ‘nana’, and didn’t want to pray silently because he knew he’d get distracted. Eventually Lee had an idea that changed all of that – a way he could talk to God, out loud, without feeling self conscious and that has served him for a long time since and, if you are ever out in York with all the commuters you might just notice him prayer walking and talking to God on his hands-free head set!
Let us pray.
Have a great week.