Prayer Walking in the Wilderness

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I am walking. I am looking. I am looking for your light, oh God, in a world where darkness seeps through. My heart is heavy, like lead in my chest. My thoughts, they weep. They weep from my eyes as my mind makes no sense of their pain…

I typed these words into my iPhone notes last week while I was walking and praying for Orlando (i.e. prayer walking). Even with the summer sun shining, I am finding it difficult to feel warm inside. You too?

The past few weeks have sucker punched us with bad news. A truly gifted, rising young star was murdered while signing autographs for fans. A beloved zoo gorilla was killed in order to save a boy who had fallen into an enclosure. Two young promising lives, and the lives of those who love them, were forever changed by a rape on Stanford’s campus. Infants have died, forgotten in hot cars. A sweet toddler was unmercifully swept away by an alligator at the most magical place on Earth. And, a staggering forty-nine innocent lives were callously discarded without hesitation by one individual in Orlando.

It keeps coming; all the news is numbing. Over and over it plays, as my heart aches and my mind works at interpreting what to do with all the information. Frankly, I do not want to learn from such terrible things. And, I am saddened by the blame and judgement trailing nastily behind each incident.

Emotions, undoubtedly, run high with these types of events. With each horrific story, we imagine how we would feel in the victim’s shoes. Certainly, it is a struggle to remain calm, rational, and full of faith. Is there a way to keep ourselves at peace so we inspire change through compassion instead of hostility?

I think so. Jesus called it prayer.

But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer. Luke 5:16 New Living Translation (NLT)

Throughout the Bible, Scripture notes that Jesus often exited chaotic and heated situations to center himself and pray alone. In fact, whether things were crazy or not, he made it a habit to look and listen for God daily.

In referencing this Scripture, the New Living Translation Bible describes “wilderness” as the quiet, solitary places one goes to pray. Isolating ourselves for regular meetings with God can be tricky. There are always people and matters competing for our attention. Getting outside away from distractions to walk in prayer is a routine that works for many people.

Are you familiar with the term prayer walking? I have been “prayer walking” for awhile now without knowing what it was called. Prayer walking has probably been around for quite some time. Walking was the primary method of travel in Biblical times. So, surely people walked and prayed at the same time. The Bible just doesn’t specifically mention people “prayer walking” their way to the well.

One common definition of prayer walking today is “praying on-site with insight”. This type of prayer walk occurs when a person or group walks around the area they want to pray for (e.g. a neighborhood, church, school, or city). The thought is that the person praying feels closer to the designated place, thus drawing greater insights from God.

Prayer walks, however, can also occur off-site, wherever a person chooses to walk, while setting their heart and mind on meeting with God. Obviously, we cannot pack up and travel to places like Orlando every time something needing prayer happens. We can, however, always intentionally focus our prayers on those specific places no matter where our steps begin. 

Both on-site and off-site prayer walks are intercessory in nature, meaning that you pray on behalf of others. Keep in mind though, there are no hard and fast rules here. We can also use prayer walking to communicate our own personal concerns to God.

 

I spent some time this week researching prayer walking. Because most prayer walks take place outside, they are very sensory-oriented. If you want to give it a try, here are some things to keep in mind:

Look – Ask God to show up and meet with you on your walk. Then, be aware of your surroundings and watch what is happening. Smile at any faces you meet, feel the sun and the wind on your skin, and pause to notice the living things around you. If you’d like, slow down to take photos documenting your walk.

As you move, visualize the place or people you are praying for, and then give God a mental picture of your prayers for them (e.g. blanket Orlando with peace, hold them close).

Listen – Tune in to the sounds you hear. Are the birds singing? Is the wind blowing or the water running? Feel the rise and fall of your chest as you listen to life happening right now. Our breath reminds us that every living thing was created on purpose and for a purpose.

Express to God your questions, your hopes, and your confidence in his plans to work everything for good (e.g. Why is there so much hatred? Please soften hearts. Bring me opportunities which build trust in your plans).

Rest – Take a break from walking. Thank God for all the blessings you see and hear. Feel your gratitude. Read a piece of Scripture or a devotional message.

Reflect on the people or place you are intentionally praying for. Sit quietly and listen for any instruction God may place on your heart. Ask him how your gifts or talents can help (e.g. continued prayers, influencing change, victim support). Watch expectantly each day for answers with patience, hope, and discernment.

God Meets Me There
by Jamie Trunnel

I find peace outside my door. It’s a walk and a prayer. God meets me there. 

I look up in the clouds and down in the dirt. Smiling at faces, to God’s call I’m alert.

I listen to the birds sing and feel the wind blow. Sometimes I see a fawn, wobbly legs land has yet to know.

There’s a dragonfly with wings so blue, shimmering hope for a world made new.

Circling a fountain by the old folks home, I wave if they’re out watching me roam.

I hear the water flow, and watch the thistles grow.

Finding a seat on a bench that’s green, I spend time asking God to show me the unseen. 

Hold onto your peace. Lighten your heart, he speaks.

I am here with you. My light will always break through. 

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Never stop praying. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NLT)

 

Inspiring Resources: These photos and more appear on my Instagram account where I document a gift and a thought each day. You can view and follow it right here.