Illustration by Sarah Duvivier.
If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory and the power for ever and ever (1Peter 4:10-11 NIV).
It can seem a little daunting, especially when you think about all the possibilities, all the creative methods there are by which we can share God’s love in practical ways. Where to start? Some will appeal to you more than others — we all have different gifts, different interests, different abilities.
You’ve heard this before, but it’s no less important because it’s familiar: Spend time with God — talking to Him about His people, before you ever spend time with people — speaking to them, or doing anything for them — for the Kingdom.
Here’s an idea: Get together with one or two friends and pray. Better yet, prayerwalk, or prayerdrive, the neighborhoods in your area. Pray for the businesses you pass, for students and teachers in the schools you pass, for the customers in the bars you pass, for the families in the homes you pass.
Drive by the jails and pray. Drive by the government buildings and pray. Drive by the adult bookstores and pray. Drive by the hospital and pray.
We hear the question, “Why not just stay at home and pray?” Yes, you can do that. But when you’re out in someone else’s neighborhood and you see their situation, it’s easier to really care for someone if you go where they are.
Jesus modeled that for us. Christ mingled with people. He went where they were so He could get acquainted with them, then He met their needs. Only then did He say, “Follow Me.”
It may give you insight into another’s world. In fact, some have called prayerwalking, “praying on-site with insight.” You see what they’re facing.
When Don and I moved from Maryland to the west coast of Florida, we were delighted with the “retirement atmosphere” in our neighborhood. It was almost like everyone was on vacation. We were both still working part-time, but the new schedule gave us some time to get acquainted.
In our neighborhood in Punta Gorda — all across Florida, actually, the terrain is flat (in fact, someone told us that the highest point in Florida is an overpass), so we could ride our bicycles or walk, and we tried to establish a routine of walking every morning.
We started praying for our neighbors, every day by name and, before long, we began to see hearts and doors opening. We were invited to their events, and into their homes, and they came to ours.
One afternoon, as I rode my bike past Jack and Penny’s home, just around the corner from us, Jack was out in his yard, so I stopped to visit. He looked a little worried, so I asked him how he was doing. He told me that the day before he had been diagnosed with leukemia, and they weren’t sure what might lie ahead. Penny was understandably troubled, too.
“Jack, would it be okay if I pray for you right here?” I asked.
“Sure, Ruthie, go ahead,” he responded. So I prayed for Jack and Penny, for peace, for hope, for direction, for healing. Jack was a retired executive from a large pharmaceutical company in Michigan. They had lived in Punta Gorda for more than ten years and everyone in the neighborhood loved them. Jack was especially close to his golfing buddies.
We visited with Jack and Penny often after that. Because I was the only nurse in the neighborhood, I became the liaison between them and the doctors and the neighbors.
Penny wanted it that way. She wanted me to be part of the decisions and to pass on news to their friends. So as I contacted the neighbors, they always wanted to know about Jack’s condition, and to have their greetings carried back to him.
We invited Jack’s friends and the neighbors to pray for him. Most of them attended one of the area churches, if irregularly, somewhere in the community, and were pleased to be part of Jack’s prayer support.
As the disease progressed, Jack had some difficult and dark days, but on one occasion when he came home from the hospital, the neighbors wanted to celebrate. We had a big “Jack is Back!” party. Jack’s neighbor across the street, a retired vice president from Ford Motor Company and his wife, wanted to have it in their home, and they put up a huge banner that said, “JACK IS BACK!” It was a wonderful evening.
As the party drew to a close, my husband suggested that we gather for a prayer of thanksgiving. We had been praying individually, and now we gathered in a circle to pray together, thanking God for Jack and for keeping him in His care. Don’s prayer was a special moment in the evening, and drew us all a little closer.
We saw Jack and Penny often over the next months and, finally, as we could see the end drawing nearer, we prayed especially for God’s sustaining presence. Jack told me, just before he died, that he had a new understanding and a new relationship with God through all of this. “I’ve attended church most of my life, but I really never knew God, until now.” He had peace to the end.
Prayerwalking has three different approaches or levels. First, it’s just walking down the sidewalk, praying for others, taking cues from whatever or whoever we see, and asking the Lord to guide our prayers and to open the hearts of those for whom we’re praying. You probably won’t actually make contact with them at this time, but you’re praying and taking them before the throne of the universe.
Spend time with God — talking to Him about His people, before you ever spend time with people — speaking to them, or doing anything for them — for the Kingdom.
There is a second type of prayerwalking, involving some contact with those for whom you’re praying. Maybe you see someone in their yard and have an opportunity to visit and introduce yourself; you might tell them
that you’re just out walking and praying. You could ask them if they have any special prayer needs so you can be specific in your prayers.
The third level of ministry in prayer walking is to be alert for someone you can lead to Christ, as the occasion presents itself. This doesn’t happen as often, but it can make obvious that this casual walk is really Kingdom Business.
As a steward for the Kingdom, I encourage you to be deliberate in using prayer as one of your stewardship tools. Keep a record of how God works through your prayers as you represent Him to those in your sphere of influence.
This article was adapted from Ruthie’s book, Bridges 101, “The Safest Place to Be,” pages 51–55.
Ruthie Jacobsen served as prayer coordinator for the North American Division from 1995 to 2018.