Are your prayer times varied? Do they contain creativity? Have they become stale? You need to go for a walk. A prayer walk.
The Dog That Changed My Life
Fifteen years ago my prayer life was transformed. By a dog. We bought a puppy. Little Jack needed many things. Cuddles, socks to chew, balls to chase and – walks. Snow, sun, rain, fog – it didn’t matter.
I discovered something on my daily date with Jack. Once you’re outside and walking, you might as well pray. It’s not that I didn’t pray before. But the regularity of the routine caused tremors in my prayer universe. I found greater creativity, depth and intimacy in my times with God.
Three years ago old Jack left us for doggie heaven. But my walks are as regular as ever. I cannot now abandon the habits that helped me have a better prayer-relationship with God than I ever imagined possible.
There’s a place for prayers in our ‘room’ (Matthew 6.6), or even on a ‘roof’ (Acts 10.9). But prayer outdoors is legitimate. Jesus did it many times (Mark 1.35; Luke 9.28). Others spoke to God outdoors, such as Abraham’s servant (Genesis 24.12), Jonah (Jonah 4.2ff) and Moses (Deuteronomy 34.1ff).
How about getting outdoors for your next prayer time? Here are some reasons to do so, and tips to help make it happen.
Seven reasons why walking is good for your prayer life
- You see something new every day. Even if the route is the same, people and nature alter what surrounds us. New sights prompt new prayers.
- You see something that prompts you to pray for people. I walk past a homeless man sleeping rough on one of my regular routes. I pray for him and people like him. I have stopped to talk to him when he’s awake too.
- You are reminded of reasons to thank God. On today’s prayer walk I saw a blackberry bush and stopped to pick some blackberries. As I did so, someone walked past. He said, “Picking a healthy breakfast?” I replied, “Yes. And it’s free!” I was reminded to thank God for all the things I take for granted. The food in my fridge, the place I live (where free food is available on bushes!), the friendliness of strangers, the physical ability I have to walk in the woods, the fact I have time to come out and pray like this, and so on.
- You are reminded of reasons to praise God. The fresh air, the green grass, a tall tree, the moon in the sky, the exuberance of young children, the playfulness of a puppy, the energy of a fitness fanatic, the beauty of a lake, the splendour of a sunrise…….
- You have different distractions. Distractions always exist. But when you’re out you cannot be distracted by your normal back-at-home distractions. Removing the home-based distractions helps us pray with greater clarity.
- You have better vision. Walking and praying helps our vision because we see things from a different perspective. Looking at Watford from the park instead of my car changes the way I pray for my town. Stopping to chat with dog-walkers connects my prayers to real people and increases my faith that the harvest is plentiful.
- You can imagine Jesus walking with you. He goes with you all through the day, of course. But a prayer walk can help us trust, believe, accept that he is walking with us just as he did with his disciples.
Three ways to build walking into your prayer life
- Know your ‘why’. Don’t do it because I said it’s a good idea. Have your own motivation. Pray about finding the right motivation, then write it down.
- Know ‘when’. One day a week, every day, days of the week that start with an ‘S’. It doesn’t matter, but create a routine. Monday is a longer walk for me (6.45 am). Tuesday, Thursday and Friday are long-ish (6.45 am). Wednesday, Saturday (8 am) and Sunday (7 am) are shorter walks. I vary the schedule, but that’s the way it is most of the time.
- Fully commit. No matter what, you’re going out to pray. I walk every day. Sometimes an hour. Sometimes 10 minutes. But I walk every day. Rain, snow, sunshine, feeling great, feeling lousy. Whatever your frequency or timing, make it something that nothing can compromise.
I don’t want to give the impression this is an exercise in military-style discipline. I’m not known as someone with strong discipline. But I’ve got to share that regular prayer walking has changed my relationship with God. It has changed me for the better. It has led to spiritual breakthroughs. It has deepened my love for God. I’m not giving up something this precious.
And no excuses! If you can’t arrange a walk in the woods or the local park, how about the walk to the bus stop, to the car, to the office, to the shops to the school, to a friend’s house, to the back of your garden, to church?
How about you?
Do you walk and pray? If so, what do you find helpful about that practice? If you don’t, what stands in the way? Can I help you to make walking part of your prayer-routine? Contact me on coach.me if you’d like some regular coaching.
Please leave a comment with your reflections and ideas. We learn best when we learn in community.
One caveat: I know that some bed-bound or house-bound people may not be able to go for a prayer walk. You can still have a fulfilling prayer life. “On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night.” (Psalms 63:6 NIV11) I’ll write about that another time.