Several weeks ago, I was asked by a ministry leader to lead a prayer walk through the neighborhood surrounding our church here in Bellevue, WA. I was happy to agree, as I have been spiritually nourished by prayer walks in the past. I see prayer walking as part of a missional strategy — definition: taking the church to people, not only taking people to church — that could revolutionize the local church. It is praying with your eyes open. Not only literally but metaphorically. Going on a prayer walk will open your eyes to what the Spirit is up to in your neck of the woods.
Our prayers for a sunny day were answered. We began by walking north of the church to the street closest to the northern border of our property. For many years, one particular neighbor had been very vocal in opposing some of our land use decisions. He had objected to our recent building expansion and, in general, had been a thorn in our side. One year ago, he had a change of heart. He called our senior pastor, Ken Koeman, to apologize for all the trouble he's caused us. He is coming back to his faith, has become a regular attender and asked Pastor Ken to officiate at his wedding! He has even gotten involved with worship leadership. Prayer walking down his street allowed us to thank God for the work He has done in this man's life and to pray for further evidence of the Spirit moving literally right in our backyard.
As we continued along, we continued our conversation with God. We stopped near a river. Others joined me in prayer. One woman shared what the river represented — the world's constant change and God's constant faithfulness. What a beautiful moment of prayer this was, as we stood over the bridge watching the river flow on! I was reminded of transitions in my own life and in the life of my church. We ended our time of prayer in a park, praying for the families who frequent it.
Like most suburban neighborhoods, our community is wracked by divorce and disconnection. Someone prayed, "Lord, it feels like we spend all our time just waving from our cars." As the sun shone on us, God warmed our heart to deepen our relationships with our neighbors. He brought to mind ways that we can connect with them in natural ways in order to break down stereotypes about Christians. We talked about community festivals, celebrations and other ways we could reach out. One woman even shared a vision God had given her to start a community garden on the very plot of land we were praying over. On our walk back to church, we began to brainstorm ways this could bless our community: bringing people together, environmental stewardship, and food for the poor. So many blessings occurred when just a few of us stepped outside our church doors and took an hour to listen to God, intentionally, with our eyes open.