I am delighted to welcome award-winning speaker and author Janet Holm McHenry onto the blog sharing the benefits of prayingwalking and easy steps to get started.
Some years ago I was falling apart physically. I needed to do something about my health, but I also knew God had been nudging me to spend more time with him. So I decided to get up just a little bit earlier the next day to walk. And while I walked, I would take care of my prayer lists.
There was a lot of my-ness in those early prayers: my marriage, my kids, my teaching job. But that changed when I saw a young man entrust his blanketed little girl to the daycare worker outside Toddler Towers in our town of eight hundred in the Sierra Valley.
At that moment before six in the morning that little girl said, “Bye, Daddy. I love you.” I knew right then that God had me out on the streets of my town not so much for my prayers but more for the needs of the people in my community.
I began opening up my eyes and praying for the business owners along Main Street, the commuters headed to Reno, and the folks still sleeping in their homes. Soon I realized I didn’t have enough time to pray and began to add more minutes until I was walking a good hour or more each day—also praying for the school teachers and staff, the city and county employees, church pastors, and hospital and emergency services workers.
There’s a biblical rationale for prayerwalking.
- Prayerwalking gives us personal direction. Matthew 9:9 tells us that as Jesus was walking along, he saw Matthew sitting at his tax collector’s booth and said to him, “Follow me and be my disciple.” What if Jesus hadn’t been walking along? What if Jesus had stayed home? Would he have called the future gospel writer as his disciple?
- Prayerwalking helps us see people’s needs. In John 5:1-15 we learn that Jesus returned to Jerusalem for a pilgrimage feast, saw a man lying by the pool of Bethesda, and healed him. What if Jesus hadn’t walked to Jerusalem for the feast? What if Jesus had stayed home? What if the man had never been healed?
- Prayerwalking gives us insights about what is not working systemically in our community. In Mathew 12:1-8 we find that when Jesus and his disciples were walking on Sabbath, his disciples started gleaning grain. When the Pharisees criticized them, the experience provided a teaching moment for Jesus about legalism and graceless living. Our prayerwalking will allow us to see issues such as poverty and racism—helping to direct our prayers.
- Prayerwalking is preparation for the harvest. In Matthew 9:35-37 Jesus teaches that prayer is important so as to prepare a faith harvest. Prayer warriors are the advance team before others come to faith.
- Prayerwalking helps us identify with Jesus. When Jesus approached Jerusalem for the last time, he wept over the city (Luke 19:41). As we prayerwalk, we can identify with our Lord as our hearts become more compassionate for the lost.
Because I began to understand that wherever I was, there was a need for prayer, my mindset shifted from a self-focused perspective to an outward one, and my fears and depression vanished. I also experienced physical healing.
During this crazy season there’s no reason we can’t go for a good walk, which will develop our strength and resistance.
In fact, walking as an exercise is making a comeback, and as we embrace it, we can multi-task our miles by praying for our neighborhoods. Here are some suggestions to carry it off well:
- Keep it simple. You don’t need fancy clothes—just a good pair of shoes and clothes that address weather needs.
- Schedule your walk. Put your prayerwalking times on your calendar.
- Leave the buds. Music or podcasts can distract you from noticing the prayer needs as well as oncoming traffic.
- Pray for what you see: schools, homes, commuters, the social and justice issues in your community, and more.
As you prayerwalk your community, you will develop a praying-without-ceasing perspective, and God will hear and answer your prayers.
Janet Holm McHenry is the author of 24 books, including the bestselling PrayerWalk: Becoming a Woman of Prayer, Strength and Discipline (WaterBrook). She loves to speak about how God has transformed her life as she has partnered with God in prayer and invites you to connect with her through her Facebook author page, her group called The Walking Club, or her website: https://www.janetmchenry.com.