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15 & 16 July 2023 (Pastoral Page) PRAYING ON THE SCENE WITHOUT MAKING A SCENE

By Dn Deborah Lim


Take a moment to reflect on these questions: What does it mean to you that God is in every place? How does this affect how you pray? How does moving or being still affect the way you pray? In other words, what helps you concentrate on God most?


According to Gary Thomas’ book ‘Sacred Pathways: Nine ways to connect with God’, our creative God created human beings with unique spiritual temperaments. He offers many pathways through which we can connect and worship Him. For example, naturalists love God best outdoors and worship in the midst of God’s creation. Sensates love God with their senses. These people worship through what they experience from sights, sounds, smells and more.

Talking to God does not need to take place in the privacy of your room or in a church building. With our ‘work from home’ setup and household chores a constant distraction, the most conducive place for prayer may not be indoors. If you can identify with the naturalist or the sensate, you may be excited to know that this month’s outreach campaign introduces a spiritual discipline called Prayer Walking that you can practise on your own or with other church friends. To put it simply, prayer walking is prayer that brings God’s people to their feet.


The practice of prayer and the practice of walking (in the form of pilgrimages) are both strong Christian traditions. Prayer walking marries the two disciplines by introducing the aspect of prayer while walking. This discipline has been woven through the history of the British church for centuries. People would walk from cathedral city to cathedral city on pilgrimage, and these pilgrimages were all about prayer. Still today, many Anglican churches mark Rogation Sunday with a prayer walk around their parish boundaries. This tradition is called ‘beating the bounds’ and is an act of claiming the ground for God in prayer.


The evangelical awakening in the 17th - 18th century has led to a different form of prayer walking. Prayers are more outward-looking with the primary purpose of intercessory prayer on location. This is a fairly modern discipline - prayer walkers see themselves physically walking with Jesus through physical spaces of need, fear, conflict and decision making. In our Singapore context, these are spaces where people gather, such as housing estates, offices, schools, playgrounds and hospitals.


Whatever mode it takes, the discipline of prayer walking involves slow and deliberate walking. Adele Calhoun, in her book ‘Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices that Transform Us’ shares that the purpose of prayer walking is for intentional and listening prayer. As the Spirit prompts our hearts, we engage in contemplative prayer or active prayer.


Why should we desire this spiritual discipline? In Luke 11:2-4, Jesus taught his disciples to pray: ‘Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven’. So prayer walking is really aligning ourselves, while walking in particular places, with Christ and His intercession for the kingdom to come.


In Deuteronomy 1:36, Moses encouraged Caleb to claim the territory that he set his feet on. Joshua 6 records that God commanded the Israelites to march around the city for 7 days. Although it is not mentioned in the Bible, God must have a purpose for this. Walking around the wall of the city so many times would certainly help to align the armed men with God’s plans and unite their hearts to move as one force. Nehemiah inspected the walls of Jerusalem before he mobilised the people to do what God had put in his heart to do. Being a man of prayer, he must have practised intentional, listening prayer even as he surveyed the broken walls of Jerusalem at night. When Jesus sent out the 12 (Matthew 10:40) and the 72 (Luke 10:16, 24), He told His disciples to keep their eyes open to real needs and their ears open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.


Praying with others in environments of shared concern can lead the church in acts of justice and mercy or to outreach initiatives. ‘It is easier to direct our hearts with genuine concern for what fills our eyesight’.[1]


For those who participate in the Prayer Walk@West Coast this weekend (you can still sign up here for the Prayer Walk on 15 July if you have not done so), may practising this spiritual discipline be a means of grace for you as well. May it lead you to be aware of people and places around our church that you may not have cared about previously. May God pour forth His work of healing in our community as the church brings its praying presence on-location!

[1] Steve Hawthorne, Prayer Walking (Charisma House, 2014)

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