Monday, September 04, 2006

The Power of Prayer(walking)

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:

Ken,

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…

9 comments:

Tom Bryant said...

Thanks, David, for sharing that. I have forwarded this to the group of men that I prayer walk with every monday.

We haven't seen the kind of "only explained by God" answers that you shared, but people have talked to each other about the church that "prays for us".

One other thing prayer walking has done is to see first hand the neighborhoods in which God has called us to serve Him. And, like Jesus did when he saw and wept over Jerusalem, I and the guys with me have developed a compassion for our community.

It is a mission's activity.

Paul Burleson said...

David,

Several years ago when I pastored Southcliff Baptist church in Fort Worth Texas we had a prayer walk ministry that was connected to members walking their neighborhoods in specific prayer for the people in that hood. We listed, if I remember correctly, several benefits from such an endeavor. Among those benefits but not limited to them were...The walk did us good physically, we were able to be alert to new move-ins quickly because of seeing the activity first hand, we got acquainted with some neighbors by just being seen, and we were involved in a regular time of specific prayer. Add to all that the fact that if you had two or three in the same hood walking/praying together there was opportunity for fellowship and bonding in relationships. This is all in addition to any God thing that might have become obvious as an answer to our praying. It just looked to us like a good thing to do.

I read someone's translation of Hebrews 13:16 that says..."Find something good to do and do it, and don't forget the poor while you're at it. God is really pleased with this kind of living." We believed we did that.

That was by no means to be the extent of our prayer life as that is more of an atmosphere of life than an activity, but it certainly was valid it seemed to us.

As to that kind of thing not seen in scripture, I'm a practical kind of guy and the fact that I don't find the use of electricity or air conditioning or even pews and pulpits for that matter doesn't bother me too much.

Paul

Ken Sorrell said...

David,

Thanks for following up on this topic. I truly believe that if you asked missionaries around the world for PrayerWalk stories, they could overwhelm anyone's inbox with responses. I'll not go into detail of our favorite story at this time but instead share a personal benefit from this prayer strategy.

One of the most precious moments I have ever spent with my dad is when he, I, and two other men traveled through Guatemala praying for the 23 Mayan people groups live in this beautiful country. It is really difficult to put into words the encouragement and memories of hearing my dad pray, cry, and cry out to God for the salvation of these people who are lost and destined for hell. I'll never forget that week as long as I live.

I do not believe that there is anything magical about PrayerWalking and you may have hit the bullseye with your comment of it seems we can hear God more clearly when we are PrayerWaking. All I know is that, like you, we have seen God answer the prayers of volunteers, missionaries, and nattional partners many times because they gave of their time to simply pray.

I pray that more people with involve themselves at home and overseas in PrayerWalking.

antonio said...

David,

I agree. I don't know of the first volunteer that believes contrary that prayer walking was a vital role in the project. I do not believe we would have seen miracles that we have seen had it not been for the intercessions and as you say we could go on with that (from dry ground to healing). I would not want to go into a new area or start a project without prayer walking. Maybe it is seeing physically what we are praying for that seemingly makes it more real but no matter what it is, the truth is that it makes a difference and its effectiveness far outways whether the Bible supports prayer walking or not, because it certainly does not speak against it. I believe people are afraid of ideas that they are not used too and have not been raised to do.

A 10-40 Window Missionary said...

David,

We have had two prayer walking teams come to our country. I wish that I could say that lives have been changed, as Ken mentioned. But, alas, not yet.

But, noting that Ken is in Mexico, where airfare from Dallas is about $1.98 (severe TIC), while airfare to our country usually is over $1500, we find it difficult to attract people to come just to prayer walk (or so both groups told us).

The two groups came on the strength of relationships between our team and individuals back in the USA. I pray for a large (anything over the four who made up the two teams) to come and help us blanket our country.

blampp@juno.com said...

David,
Thanks for the follow up "thread" on Sorrell's comments..... We've had some similar results from PW'ng.... It can be a powerful tool for impacting the lives of new Believer's when they see specific results! We've known of several teams that have been in Germany, Italy and in the Far East.... In fact, we just returned from GE at the end of last month, and were encouraged by conversations with locals (SW GE) who sense a renewal of Spiritual concern in area's where there has been vibrant evangelical activity in the past! I was "moved" by the comment of 10-40 WM as transportation costs were mentioned.... I'll be in prayer about that......

Bryan Riley said...

Let us all pray that more Christians would be mobilized to the misssion field where they would have to walk by faith every moment and see the results of things such as prayer walking.

tim rogers said...

Brother David,

Thanks for the insight gained from this post. I have dear friend in the IMB in Belguim that emails me to let me know when she and some other Christian ladies will be walking in the red light district praying for the Prostitutes and engaging both men and women in converstation when asked about their reasons for being there. They are obviously not dressed as the other ladies, and therefore get approaced many times asking what purpose they have in the area.

She has seen an openness to her as the weeks and months have progressed.

Blessings,
Tim

Anonymous said...

David,

This is, in my opinion, one of your best posts. I realize that there are times to sit down, kneel down, be still and pray. But for many of us walking and talking with the Lord is the best way to abide in Him. The stories of what God has done in our ministry in S.A. while we or others were prayer-walking are numerous.