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Watch and pray.
MATTHEW 26:41 NIV
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Jesus and Paul both said to “watch and pray” (Matthew 26:41; Colossians 4:2). This suggests a dual focus. Prayer doesn’t remove us from the world, but equips us to encounter it. We ask God to do his part, and we seek the insight we need to do our part.
One of the best ways I’ve found to “watch and pray” is to walk and pray. Take a stroll around your neighborhood, in conversation with God. Let the walk fuel your prayer, and let the prayer inform your walk.
Prayer-walking is a way of praying onsite with insight.
As you walk and pray, invite God to speak to you about your neighbors. Don’t feel the need to fill up every minute. Make yourself available to God and to your neighbors. Don’t be surprised if, while you are praying, someone comes up and starts a conversation with you. And if you have the chance to be the conversation starter, by all means speak up.
One evening as I passed a certain house, I noticed all sorts of grotesque Halloween decorations. This family took it over the top, I thought. Immediately, in my spirit, I heard what I thought might be a prompting from God to pray for them. So I did.
And even though I didn’t know the family or anything about their spiritual condition, I continued to pray for them each time I passed that home, and at other times as well.
Late one Friday afternoon, a person I didn’t know dropped by my office. She wanted to talk to a pastor and, somehow, she found her way to my office. Did I have time to talk? Well, I was trying to wrap up my work and head home, but I’ve learned to treat seeming intrusions as possible “God things.” And I was curious.
As she shared her story of spiritual need, I realized that she lived in the very house I’d been praying for. I talked to her about God’s love and how he often works with us in difficult times. She had some familiarity with Christianity, but it had been years since she had connected with God. I asked her if this might be a good time to reach out.
“I think God has been reaching out to you,” I offered. Then I told her that I’d been praying for her for more than a month. As I described my prayer-walk and the Spirit’s prompting, her jaw dropped. She had found her way to my office, wondering what to do next! Coincidence? I don’t think so.
Before she left that day, we prayed together. She joined me in confessing our need for God and inviting him to lead us. We both cried, sensing the presence of God and the care of the Good Shepherd who is continually seeking his lost sheep.
That woman has since become a great friend and faithful prayer partner. And now, each time I walk past, I thank God that her house was on my route.
As you make prayer-walking part of your routine, you may encounter “God things” as well. Not every encounter will be this dramatic, but “watch and pray” as you walk and pray. I find it rare that if a person prayer-walks for thirty days they don’t see something miraculous happen.
Listen to the Spirit as you walk. In grade school I had a teacher who used to say, Put on your listening ears. I would say the same thing when you prayer-walk.
Keep your eyes open to what is happening in your neighborhood. Where do you see people gathered? Is someone starting a project? Are there signs of neglect somewhere?
As much as possible, pray for your neighbors by name as you walk. For more information on that, you may want to sign up at blesseveryhome.com.
Keep some words in your mind that might prompt you to look behind the scenes. For example, ask yourself about these words: pain, parties, pennies, and power? Do you see anything that relates to those words for which you should pray? Here’s another set of words: hurts, habits, hope, and history.
Who are the “persons of peace” in your neighborhood? They are people with the gift of gathering. They are often the ones who know everyone else in the neighborhood. If you want to entertain friends at your home, they would know how to go about it. They might even offer to be the host.
Walk at the same time every day, if possible. You are more likely to meet people because you may see them again and again.
In the conversations that arise along the way, be honest and caring. People can sense what you’re about. Don’t preach. Ask ques- tions, as long as any answer is okay. Give them room, and they may open up to you. Give God room, and you will get to see God work in the hearts of your neighbors.