This week, I’m attempting prayer walking with my daughter. Praying and movement come naturally to me. In fact, many of my conversations with God happen when I’m walking, running or hiking. It’s not just that nature inspires awe and awe makes me think of God, although that is true. There’s also something about being physically active that helps me channel my energy into prayer. If I’m sitting, my mind goes a thousand different places, usually to the huge to-do list I have. If I’m moving, the part of my mind that needs to accomplish something can keep track of the scenery and rest of me can focus.
With the gorgeous fall weather we’re having, the pull to be outside for prayer time was undeniable. So I scrapped my previous idea about what we’d do and decided we’d walk. Then I wondered how I’d teach someone to walk and pray. It’s an internal process for me, I was going to need something concrete to channel the focus of a 7 year old. Remember, the idea of prayer is still nebulous for my daughter, as for many kids (and adults!). She understands what the word means but doesn’t quite understand how to make it happen. I think it’s how I feel about doing a headstand. I know how to do it but the execution is rocky. I realized I needed something concrete for to channel her prayers and that’s when I stumbled on the idea of praying for the things we see as we walk. Then I googled it. Guess what? Others have had this idea too. Proof that prayer is not rocket science and there are a thousand right ways to do it.*
Prayer walking is very different from the drawing prayers we last did. In prayer walking, your prayers take direction from the things around you, rather than from the things you have on your heart. It’s often an intercessory form of prayer. Quite simply, you walk through a neighborhood praying for people as you pass their homes or businesses. That’s it.*
I explained it to my daughter this way. “Today we’re going to take a prayer walk. We’re just going to walk along the path and pray for the things we see.”
In the interest of keeping it simple, we just named aloud the things we were praying for:
- I’m praying for the prairie dogs to be safe. (We love the prairie dogs that live in the field behind our house!)
- I’m praying for the family that lives in that house to have a good night.
- I’m praying that we’ll keep making friends in this new neighborhood.
- I’m thanking God for this beautiful afternoon.
I’d recommend keeping it simple, especially with the young or those who are new to prayer. Above all, remember that praying aloud is an act of vulnerability. Respect that. No matter what crazy thing your child offers up, this isn’t the time for a lecture in proper prayer. (Someday I’ll write about the time I prayed for Santa Claus in church. Also a stuffed unicorn. These things happen if you encourage children to pray for the things that are important to them.) This is just time to begin a conversation with God. Remember, prayer isn’t some magic spell. So “doing it wrong” is better than not doing it all. God can work with an honest prayer and pray-er.
Really, that’s it for this prayer form. Later on that night, I did include all the things we named in my personal prayer time. Not because I felt like the walk wasn’t enough but because I really felt moved. I wanted to spend more time with God, naming the concerns and gratitudes that were on our hearts.
*Some groups advocate for using prayer walking (or prayerwalking) as an evangelistic practice. They pray specifically for the salvation of non-believers and/or they recommend praying aloud and passing out information about your church at each stop on the prayer walk. That’s not how I approached this prayer time but if you google “prayerwalking” you’ll find more info geared toward that type of walk.