“One of the benefits I have discovered from all this walking is that walking can be a powerful form of prayer. Linking the physical and spiritual has connected me with God in ways I’d never thought possible.”
– CWA Core Walk Team Member
What is Prayer Walking?
At its most basic level, prayer walking is simply walking and praying at the same time. How one walks and prays, however, takes many forms around the world and in different faith traditions.
To some people, prayer walking is a deeply contemplative exercise in which a person walks at a very slow pace while opening one’s self up to God. Others use prayer walking as a form of blessing the world, asking that God bring peace or other benefits to the lives of those whose footsteps fall on the same pavement or path.
Still others understand prayer walking in more simple, practical terms. They wear a pedometer (step counter) all day, which gently reminds them that each step throughout the day is devoted to God. At various times they may very deliberately walk and pray at the same time. Other times, they may simply walk, trusting that wearing a pedometer makes them unconsciously aware of the fact that their day has been devoted to God.
Prayer walkers of all stripes report feeling more connected with their spiritual selves throughout the day. Many choose to record the steps or mileage counted on their pedometers at the end of each day in a journal. Recording steps provides an opportunity to look back over the day, calling to mind and perhaps writing down any insights or breakthroughs before they are forgotten.
We recommend using a pedometer to count your steps as you prayer walk. These may be purchased at any sporting goods store.
In the morning, you may wish to spend at least five minutes envisioning where your feet will take you throughout the day. Turn these steps over to God, asking that each one bring you into an awareness of God’s presence and love, even if that awareness is, at times, only unconscious awareness. Ask that your prayer walking help you, your community, and our nation embody better the love of God, love of neighbor, and love of self – the Three Great Loves.
You may wish to set aside distinct times during the day in which you will walk and contemplate the Three Great Loves, or the Phoenix Affirmations, which are based on these loves. Or you may reflect on the TCPC Eight Points.
You may also wish at times to walk while praying over a specific topic, either of personal or community concern. For instance, you may wish to pray about a conflicted relationship, seeking insight into ways your mutual interaction may lead to transformation for both of you. You might pray for the poor and marginalized in your community, opening yourself up to ways God may be guiding you to get involved in alleviating their suffering.
A walking prayer might also be more open ended, paying attention to whatever thoughts enter one’s mind while one walks and contemplating their potential meaning.
Prayer walking can be done alone or with others. When walking with others, one may wish to alternate between time in discussion and time in quiet contemplation.
As you get used to prayer walking, you may wish to establish weekly goals. Studies show that the average healthy adult walks 10,000 steps per day and the average steps per mile is 2,000. You may wish to make this your goal – to average 10,000 steps, being as aware as possible during periods of the day that each step is in some form a prayer. Some days, you may walk less, other days you may walk more. The key is to set an average goal tabulated each week.
What If I Can’t Walk?
If you are unable to walk, you can consider prayer movement. You might devote part of your daily movement towards prayer and experience the deepening that comes with linking physical movement to prayer.
Prayer Walking Groups
Prayer walking groups are a great way to build community and spiritual growth. Some churches designate Lent – the forty days minus Sundays before Easter as a special time of prayer walking. People record their steps each day and turn in their totals, with the grand total being announced Easter Sunday.
Other churches sponsor single-day prayer walks on Pentecost Sunday and other occasions in which as many people as possible walk a designated circuit. If 250 people prayer walk for 10 miles, this equals the total number of miles the CrossWalk America Core Walk Team walked from Phoenix to Washington, DC over five months!
One Church’s Example
Here is how one Arizona Church – Gentle Shepherd MCC (gsmcc.org) – launched prayer walks prior to the 2006 Walk Across America:
Do you believe that prayer really can have an impact on the world? Then you need to join this club!
In advance of the upcoming CrossWalk America Walk from Phoenix to Washington, D.C., Pastor Brad is inviting the congregation to join in prayerful steps of preparation. But before you get the skinny (and, yes, it can help that, too!) here’s a little more information about prayer walking, what it is and why you should consider doing it.
Far too many of us have been left with images of prayer as talking to God. First of all, if we’d be quiet long enough, maybe God might talk to us. Another classic example of how we view prayer is nestled in this old joke:
THE TWO FORMS OF PRAYER. There are really only two kinds of prayer. The first is a prayer one prays when all is well. You simply begin with: “O Lord, Hearest my prayer….”. The second form of prayer begins in a flurry of drama and activity, always offered in times of deep distress: You rush in the door, drop to your knees, slide all the way down the hall and into the side of the bed and cry, “GOD, HELP!”
Prayer is more than uttering words, whether spoken solemnly or in desperation. Prayer is an action of offering our intentions to God. What do you wish for the world? For your self? For others? When you offer that intention to God – THAT, TOO, IS PRAYER. Prayer is offering our best intentions for goodness, for others, self, and creation. And that’s where prayer walking comes in.
What might be the outcome of people, all across this land, walking with intention (prayer) for a compassionate, inclusive Christian witness to become the most visible, most listened to voice on issues of justice, love, the environment, science and morality? How might our city, state, nation become places of peace and right justice? What might happen to the land if we walked with the intention of good on it?
It is true that bringing wholeness requires us to address issues in the political and physical realm (e.g., there will be no healing of our air without an end to polluting it!). But there is another plane of action that reaches beyond all the physical limitations we encounter in our work for shalom – transformation of our society into the society of God. That plane is a spiritual one, engaged in the art of prayer. And that’s where Prayer Walkers come in.
By joining this club you’ll be agreeing to walk with intention about the upcoming Walk, about a compassionate, inclusive Christian witness in our world, about walking for “a new earth where right justice is at home.” I’m encouraging you to make your intentions both broad and deep. Keep the state of our nation, world, and environment in the center of your intentions. But open yourself to walking with simpler intentions as well. One day, walk your neighborhood with the intention of every tree finding rich nourishment. One day, walk the church’s neighborhood with the intention of people finding meaningful, sustaining employment. To sum all of that up in a nutshell – prayer walk.
Every member of the PRAYERWALKERS CLUB will receive special electronic daily devotions authored by Pastor Brad along with tips about how, what, where and why to walk. In addition, you’ll be invited to some special gatherings to celebrate our prayer walking. Maybe you can’t walk very far, or cannot walk as a course of exercise. You can still be a part – let whatever movement you can do become filled with prayerful intention – and record that too! In prayer walking – everyone and everything counts – and that’s sort of the entire point. Pastor Brad will walk the church neighborhood from 11am-1pm 2/1/06. You can join him there. A formal meeting will occur after worship on 2/5/06 to explain the club. Break out those tennies… it’s time for some serious (fulfilling and fun) prayer walking!