On August 23, fellow "m-blogger" Ken Sorrell, posted the following on his blog Returning to Biblical Missions:
Last week during our Strategy Coordinator Church Training, I was asked a question that was both new to me and caught me somewhat offguard. The question was basically, "Why do we believe that Prayer Walking is a valid missions activity or strategy since we have no biblical evidence to support such a practice?" Others privately mentioned to me that they had heard of conversations in the states that believe it is not appropriate for volunteers or missionaries to be part of this application of a prayer strategy.
In the comment section, I wrote the following:
I believe there is no biblical warrant to say God hears our prayers any more on a "prayer walk" than in our "prayer closet." But for some reason, it seems like we are able to hear God better (SEEMS LIKE) when we are observing with our physical eyes what we are praying about and seeing with our spiritual eyes. And I cannot explain exactly why, but we have experienced some pretty incredibly specific answers to prayers that were prayed in the context of various prayer-walks and prayer-walking teams with which we have been involved. I mean really incredible stuff. I'll probably have to save that for a whole post sometime. Also, we have had prayer-walk teams from the States go to various towns and meet the pastors and believers there, listen to their testimonies and prayer requests, and then pray together (many times while I translated back and forth) with them. The encouragement this offered to the local believers, as well as the inspiration and encouragement to pray offered to the prayer-walkers, was invaluable.
As anticipated in this comment, I would now like to give testimony to several of the extraordinary ways the Lord has used prayer-walking in our missionary ministry in Spain…
Back around 1998, when I was still missionary pastor of the Baptist church in Badajoz, one Saturday, we announced to the church members that we were going to have a prayer-walk in the neighborhood around the church. A small group showed up, made up almost exclusively of the most dedicated "prayer warriors" in the congregation. At one point on the prayer-walk route, Mari Carmen, in my opinion a very spiritually mature and sensitive lady, commented that she felt led by the Holy Spirit to pray that, if at that time there were believers living in Badajoz, who for some reason or another were not active in a local church, God would lead them to return, and get active in church.
If you knew the context of the evangelical churches in Badajoz, you would realize that this request was quite unusual. In Badajoz, there were basically 3 evangelical congregations, and for all practical purposes, all of the evangelical believers already knew each other. Given this context, it was somewhat unlikely that there would be believers in town that we did not already know.
However, the next Wednesday evening, at our weekly prayer meeting, an elderly couple walked in, and said that they were believers who had been converted years ago when they lived in Barcelona. But since moving to Badajoz 10 years ago, they had drifted away from the Lord and had never gotten involved in church. As we began to ask them more, we discovered that they lived at the very corner where we had stopped and lifted that request to the Lord. That was approximately 8 years ago. To this day, Francisco & Antonia, the elderly couple, are still faithful, active members in the church, and have been a great blessing to many people. One of their grandsons eventually married the daughter of the Spanish pastor who followed me at Badajoz. This couple (the grandson and the daughter of the Spanish pastor) have now joined our IMB colleagues as part of their church planting team in the nearby city of Cáceres. Another grandson has recently become the youth director, together with his wife, at the church in Mérida we planted after moving from Badajoz. Just coincidence? You may choose to believe so, but you will never convince me.
But wait. The story doesn’t end there. Several years later, we invited a team of volunteers from our home church, Bellevue Baptist, in Cordova, Tennessee, to come and "prayer-walk" together with us throughout all the region of Extremadura. This dedicated group of spiritually mature brothers and sisters in Christ were willing to give of their money and time to come with the sole purpose of getting to know the believers and the work in Extremadura first-hand, and intercede before the Father "on site with insight" as we journeyed together from town to town, interviewing, and praying together with various Christian leaders.
As I was giving them some orientation for our time together, I told them the story of Mari Carmen, and her prayer that God might bring any believers who were not in church back to church, and how God had miraculously answered. Later that week, in the midst of our prayer journey itinerary, I spontaneously decided to stop briefly in Fregenal de la Sierra, a small town of about 7,000 inhabitants, which had been the birthplace of Cipriano de Valera, one of the translators of the Reina-Valera Bible, which is basically the equivalent of the King James in Spanish. I told the group about Cipriano de Valera, and that we did not know of any evangelical believers living in this town at that time. Upon hearing that, one of the ladies in the prayer-walk team, remembering the story of Mari Carmen, decided to pray the same thing—that if there were any believers living in Fregenal, that they would make themselves known and get involved in church. I remember thinking to myself, "Good intentions, but she just doesn’t understand. If there were believers living in this town, there is no way we would not already know about it."
Fast-forward several months…. News gets to us that a Christian couple named Paco & Pepa, together with their teenage daughter, had been living in Fregenal for years, but had never sought out and gotten involved in a church, since there was no church in their town. They had since gotten in contact with the missionaries in the neighboring town of Zafra (about 15 miles away), and begun to attend services there, as well as open up their home for evangelistic Bible studies in Fregenal.
But wait. There’s still more. Encouraged by the Lord’s blessing, the following year, we decided to invite the same prayer-walk team from Bellevue back for another prayer journey throughout Extremadura. I was able to share with them the miraculous answer to prayer in Fregenal, and we were able to go back to Fregenal, and meet and pray together with Paco & Pepa, who were at that time hosting an evangelistic campaign in their town. After that, we continued on to Jerez de los Caballeros (pop. 10,000), a very historic town that had once been under the governance of the Knights Templar, and, to our knowledge, had never had any evangelical presence. As we prayed in Jerez, another member of the team felt led by the Lord to make the same request—If there were any believers living there, they would make themselves known, and get involved in church and in serving the Lord. Once again, I thought—Well, we’ll see…
Fast-forward several months again... Julio, the new pastor at Badajoz, receives a phone call from Karlo, a young dentist from a Baptist church in Peru, who had moved to Jerez de los Caballeros several months earlier. He was looking for a church to attend. Upon learning there was no church in Jerez, he began to attend the church in Badajoz (about 60 miles away). The year after that, we were able to go back with still another prayer-walk team (made up of many of the same people) and pray together with Karlo, in Jerez de los Caballeros. He confirmed to us that roughly about the same date we had been there the year before, he had sensed from the Lord the need to seek out a church, and get involved in ministry. Today, Karlo and his fiancée are meeting together with believers in another town, and reaching out, giving testimony for the Lord, not only in Jerez, but also in several other towns in the vicinity that do not have any evangelical church, with the goal of seeing new churches established.
Back to the original question: Is prayer-walking a valid missions activity or strategy? I’ll let you decide…