While facing complex obstacles each week, the most powerful thing a pastor can do is actually one of the most simple things he's called to do. Pray.
Pastors are called to pray. In fact, when appointing some of the first leaders of the church to action, the apostles said it was so they had more time to pray. Many pastors are good prayers, some, including me if I’m not intentional, struggle to remember this important ministerial task.
I HAVE gotten intentional lately, however. I’ve found a way to make pastoral prayer a part of my week by taking prayer walks.
For me, this is usually a mid-morning thing. It’s after I get myself over to a coffee shop and do all kinds of work for the church. Earlier in the morning, I prepare sermons, I get some scheduling done, I meet with someone, whatever. Then, when I can sit no longer, having jittery energy from all the caffeine, I drive over to Poe Mill.
Poe Mill is the neighborhood across the street from our church. We feel responsible for taking care of these people and reaching the lost there in particular. I usually drive around for a second until I see an open stretch of street in which I can park. After parking, I just walk up and down the streets of the neighborhood praying for the people in each house, praying for our church, and praying for our mission.
A prayer walk could not be more straightforward. Walk somewhere you want to reach. And while you walk, pray.
A prayer walk could not be more powerful. Don’t underestimate things that are simple. Cornbread is simple, but could you imagine the South without it?
Often we either doubt something simple is worthwhile and ignore it, or we assume because it’s simple we need to add something to it (like people who think sugar belongs in cornbread). In both cases, we diminish potential power. What’s the potential power of a prayer walk?
I can't speak for every part of every town, but I’ve had a lot more reach ever since starting my prayer walks. I’ve been shocked at the number of people I’ve been able to talk to just by being out and about. Once in a while, it’s just a wave or a nod, but even so, that visibility has become a win.
Again, there are neighborhoods out there where this would be less easy. But sometimes I see someone on their porch, working on their lawn, or walking their dog and tell them, “I’m the pastor of the church right down the street, how can I pray for you as I walk around today?”
This little line has generated some stories for me. I’ve gotten to pray with a man who has cancer. I’ve gotten to pray over a woman with a drug issue. One guy I started a conversation with, who told me later he walked by me on purpose to see if I was sketchy, invited me to a revival he was attending in town, and I went with him one night. I later wrote him a letter inviting him to Griggs.
There's a lot of people I don’t meet too, but just this week I will start letting them know they've been prayed for by leaving these on the doors when possible.
It’s easy to get lost in the work of stuff and forget all about pastoring people. It’s easy to get lost in the what and forget the why. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I need to review.
Why are we putting in all of this work? Why am I spending hours a week figuring out how to explain this 2,000-year-old book? Why are we spending all of this time and money revamping our building, scheduling volunteers, and planning out events?
Oh yea, it’s because Jesus did the way harder work of redeeming me from the grip of sin and death. Prayer reminds you of this if you do it right.
Additionally, it’s because Jesus loves people. He loves the people of Poe Mill. He loves the people of Greenville. He loves the people sleeping in the thousands of houses around ours. Walking past a row of houses reminds you of this.
As you walk past each house, you walk past eternal souls; souls that are experiencing joy or pain. Souls that are heading for their calling or away from their creator. Souls that are heading for eternal life or eternal death.
Yes, they’re shaped like houses, but many of these structures are temporary prisons. They’re pre-graves for the damned who desperately need a relationship with Jesus. As you review, you want to pray more and more not less and less.
“With thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God,” said the Apostle Paul. What are your requests? Have they been answered?
“You have not because you ask not,” said Jesus' brother James.
The most powerful part of a prayer walk is that you pray. We need to ask God boldly for big help, plenteous fruit, and small egos. We need to beg God for souls saved, families restored, and Christian kids to stay the course. We need to plead with God to do the impossible among us, in case we start to think we’re at the helm. For those that are asleep, we ask awakening. For those that are lukewarm, we ask heating. And for those that are discouraged, we ask courage.
Let us make our requests known, knowing that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.
If we don’t walk and pray, we’ll end up sitting and passive. We’ll be busy all the time, but for the wrong reasons. We’ll ignore the simple, primary call to minister in prayer, thus wasting our lives in the complexities.
If we do walk and pray the Holy Spirit may remind us again and again what ministry is all about, and he, through this simple act, could do something more powerful for us in 5 weeks than we could do on our own in 5 years.
Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/drmillerlg/