There is an expression people often use when we are talking to another person and getting absolutely nowhere. When they just don’t seem to be listening and whatever we say we can’t make them understand. They just couldn’t care less about what we are talking about. “It’s like talking to a brick wall,” we say.
For so much of the time, when it comes to evangelism and witnessing and sharing our faith, it seems as though we are talking to a brick wall! Our words make no impression. It’s as if there is a thick solid brick wall between us and them and people just can’t hear what we are trying to say.
Sometimes that is our fault. Sometimes the walls can come from us and from the way we try to share the gospel. We fail to communicate, we use jargon, they really cannot understand a word we are saying. But at other times the walls come from the people we are speaking to. Consciously or unconsciously, many people have built up barriers of resistance to anything we could say which would unsettle their comfortable lives, anything which would get them thinking about the important issues of life and eternity, anything which would remind them of their own mortality,
And sometimes it is actually the devil who builds those walls to stop people who are lost from ever getting found! There can be genuine spiritual barriers which mean that our preaching and witnessing are ineffective.
2 Cor 4:3 Even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
How can we help these people blinded by the devil to see God? What can we do to bring down these walls which stop people from believing in Jesus and being saved???? The answer is as simple as it is obvious. Prayer! Prayer!
Prayer is vital as we are sharing the gospel with people we already know. But prayer is if anything even more important before we go out to share the gospel in new places with people we don’t know. Sometimes we can be tempted to leap into action too quickly. Delivering leaflets. Knocking on doors. Organising special events. We do not do enough of these things! But sometimes even before we do these things there is something even more important God wants us to do. And that is to pray!
Which brings us to Joshua and the battle of Jericho. It was a battle which the Israelites did not even need to fight, because God gave them the victory and God brought the walls of Jericho down!
Joshua 6:15 On the seventh day, they got up at daybreak and marched around the city seven times in the same manner, except that on that day they circled the city seven times. 16 The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the people, “Shout! For the LORD has given you the city! …….
20 When the trumpets sounded, the people shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the people gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so every man charged straight in, and they took the city.
God gave the victory. It is tempting to think that the Israelites did nothing at all. But read the story and you will see that the Israelites did several important things. They marched. They shouted. They blew their ram’s horn trumpets. They carried the ark of the covenant. And when they seventh day came – they shouted! God gave the victory but the Israelites were not passive there. They were obedient. Even when they did not understand what God was commanding them to do, they trusted and they obeyed.
Hebrews 11:30 tells us, By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days.
Just as faith and obedience brought down the walls of Jericho, so faith and obedience will bring down the barriers which stop the people of North Springfield from hearing and responding to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Faith and obedience, expressed in prayer.
All prayer is an exercise in faith and obedience. Especially for those of us who are the kind of people who like to be busy. We are the kind of people who could easily be tempted to put our trust in human activity. Perhaps that is why we often find prayer very difficult. But prayer is vital! Prayer shows that we really believe Zechariah 4:6: `Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.
We might actually find it easier to deliver leaflets or knock on doors. We could be tempted into thinking that if we did those things we would achieve more. But praying is an expression of our faith in God. Prayer is a way of acknowledging that only the Holy Spirit can bring people to Christ! By spending the time praying instead of doing, by praying enough before we even start doing, we show that are looking for God to do what we never could.
I am sure we all believe in the power of prayer enough to agree that prayer works. We don’t necessarily believe enough to actually make the time and space to pray – but we agree that prayer is important, vital, essential! We already pray in our own devotional lives. We pray together in Home Groups. We pray together at our Sunday morning prayer meetings. But this evening I want to introduce us to another way of praying: prayer walking.
So what is prayer walking? It is praying as you walk! Prayer not at home or at church but “on the hoof”. Why prayer walking?
We know that we do not have to be in a church building for God to answer our prayers.
We know that we do not need to be on our knees or have our eyes closed for God to answer our prayers.
The more we know about other people and can empathise with their needs the easier we find it to pray meaningfully for them. So if we are praying for other people who we don’t know, why not go to their streets and their neighbourhood and pray for them there!
The first account of prayer walking comes from as early as 467 AD! Following a series of devastating events that plagued the local people, the Bishop of the town of Vienne in France instituted processions around the town’s perimeter, in order to seek God’s blessing on the inhabitants. The celebration of ‘Rogation Days” (from the Latin rogatio to ‘intercede’, ask or beseech) probably reached England around the 8th Century as part of the Roman Church’s calendar of festivals.
In the Middle Ages “beating the bounds” of the parish around Ascension Day became a major event in the church year. Led by the priest, the faithful would walk around the boundaries of the parish with banners depicting the saints, chanting from the Scriptures and erecting stone crosses at intersections with other parishes. During each pause at a boundary mark the priest would give a blessing and pray for the people. For particularly large parishes these processions might take several days! Although the practice of “beating the bounds” died out in 19th century it has been revived in many places in recent years, especially during the Millennium celebrations.
The people would also literally “beat the bounds” with branches. This was not merely to mark the perimeter of the parish. They believed that doing so would drive demons out of the parish so they would no longer trouble the people. Their seemingly strange practices may well show us important and neglected truths.
So prayer walking simply means praying as we walk around a neighbourhood. What kind of praying do we do?
0. Praising and worshipping God
God deserves all our praise and worship. We meet to praise and worship God here in a building. Why not praise and worship God out in the real world! Just think. If you are walking around a new development like Beaulieu Park, on streets and outside houses which weren’t there even ten years ago. You might be the first person to praise and worship God in that particular spot for centuries. Possibly the very first person to praise and worship God on that spot on the face of the earth, EVER!
Mark 16:15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole of creation.
Not just to all the people, not just to all the nations, but to the whole of creation! We sometimes think of the gospel as an invitation – but it is not. The gospel is an announcement. A proclamation. The good news that God is creator, Jesus is Lord and Jesus is saviour. Christians praising God are proclaiming to the whole of creation the greatness and the glory of God! So we praise.
1. Praying for the homes you pass
Eph 6:18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. That must include prayer walking! Pray for any people you see. Pray for their homes as you pass by. Try to imagine their needs and pray for them. Try to imagine what it must be like to live in a community which is not a community because there are no facilities, not even a shop. Prayers of intercession – asking prayers. Pray as you are led that those people will be open to Christians seeking to share the gospel with them. Pray that the walls will come tumbling down!
2. Listening to God as you walk
Part of prayer walking is listening to God so that we will know more precisely what to pray for
Romans 8:26-27 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.
God gives spiritual gifts of prophecy, discernment, knowledge and wisdom to His church. The Holy Spirit at work in every Christian allows all of us to hear God’s voice and be led by Him. We also listen for specific guidance about the approach we should take to evangelism, and for discernment about the presence of evil in particular places.
3. Proclaiming Christ’s victory – claiming the ground
Beyond praising God and praying for people, listening to God and expressing our faith and obedience, prayer walking is also an activity of what some people call “spiritual warfare”. `The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.’ (1 John 3:8)
The experience of church history and of churches in many parts of the world today suggests that some places can be particularly influenced by evil spirits as a result of activities there in the past or present.
Part of prayer walking is simply praising God and declaring Jesus’s victory over all the powers of evil. But we also seek the Spirit’s guidance in discerning whether evil powers have any claim over any particular places or people. This is one way we fulfil Jesus’s commission to His church, not only to proclaim the gospel but also to bring healing and deliverance. As you go, preach this message: `The kingdom of heaven is near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. (Matthew 10:7-8) This is such an important aspect of prayer walking that I will explain the Biblical basis for Spiritual Warfare on another occasion. But we should never forget that behind the scenes of our efforts to spread the gospel, there is a spiritual war on!
Ephesians 6:11 Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Claiming the ground in Spiritual Warfare.
4. Blessing the homes you pass
The closest thing to prayer walking we find in the New Testament is the way that Jesus sent out both the Twelve (Matt 10:5-15) and the Seventy-two (Luke 10:1-12) to heal, to minister deliverance and to preach the gospel. In particular there is one command Jesus gave to his representatives in Luke 10:5-6 which is very interesting .
“When you enter a house, first say, `Peace to this house.’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you.”
This command, to “give peace to a household” may seem strange to us. Jesus was teaching that the words His disciples spoke would convey the blessings of God’s peace on those who received them, or equally bring God’s judgement to the people who rejected them.
Jesus has delegated HIS authority to his disciples and to his church. So Christians have the power to pronounce God’s blessing – to declare how God will bless. And when we do this, it will not just be empty words, nor even an optimistic prayer. Those words will be authoritative and declarative – even PERFORMATIVE!! Because we speak on behalf the Lord Jesus Christ, representing God, the blessings we command WILL happen.
We find an example of the power of blessings in the story of Jacob blessing Joseph and his brothers in Genesis 49. The verb to BLESS or give a blessing is a very biblical word. We find it more than 400 times in Bible. A blessing is a “bestowal of some good” which can be any form of material or spiritual well-being. Most of the time it is God who gives the blessing. God speaks – and people are blessed! But in the Bible we also find the idea that human beings can give THEIR blessing to others, can pass on material and spiritual well-being to others. The priest of Salem Melchizedek blessed Abraham, Abraham blessed his children, and Isaac blessed his children. Remember the lengths Jacob went to in Gen 27 to trick his father Isaac into giving HIM the special words of blessing which should have been reserved for his older brother Esau. And how angry Esau was when he found out that his special blessing had been stolen! They really believed that “giving a blessing” and “receiving a blessing” in this way made a difference!!!! Genesis 49 is a whole chapter recording the 12 separate blessings Jacob gave to his 12 sons.
The people in the Bible believed in giving blessings. But that is not just some obscure part of ancient history. We should still be doing the same today. It is significant that throughout the 4000 years since Abraham, worship services in Jewish synagogues and Christian churches alike have always included words of “blessings”, as we often conclude our services with the words of “”The Grace”.
We know the power of prayer. We believe in a God who answers prayer – an all-powerful Father God who lovingly grants the requests of his children. We believe that time spent making those requests is not time wasted. But in the Bible pronouncing a blessing on someone is distinctly different to praying for them. Declaring a blessing on another person is not what we PRAY for them, but what we SAY directly concerning them. I suspect we don’t actually DECLARE God’s blessings to each other very much. Most Christians don’t believe or realise that they CAN bestow material and spiritual good on others by speaking words of blessing. We can see the point of prayer – asking God to bless. But here in 21st century Europe we don’t go a bundle on declaring blessings for each other.
But remember how Jesus blessed the little children when they came to Him. Those mothers who brought their children to Jesus certainly believed that His saying a blessing on them would make a difference to their lives. And Jesus encouraged that belief!
When a Minister visits people, even folk who are not Christians usually expect the Minister to pronounce a blessing on them and on their house. But Ministers aren’t the only Christians who are allowed to pronounce blessings. Christians share in the priesthood of all believers. So we can ALL pronounce God’s blessing as Jesus did and the OT priests did, on each other and on a needy world. ALL Christians can pronounce blessings!!!! Those blessings aren’t just encouraging words or optimistic wishful thinking. A blessing declared in the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ and inspired by the Holy Spirit WILL BRING good on others!
We know the power of words, and the power of prayer. We can discover the power of blessings as we bless each other, and also as we join in prayer walking. As we walk we don’t just pray for the homes we pass. We can also proclaim God’s peace and blessing upon them. We actually declare God’s blessings upon them. What difference will it make? LET’S TRY IT AND WE’LL FIND OUT!!!
So what can we do for our neighbours now to prepare the way for evangelism in the months to come? How can we help people who are blinded by the devil to see God? What can we do to bring down the walls which stop people from believing in Jesus and being saved???? Prayer. Praising God. Interceding. Listening to God. Spiritual warfare. Declaring blessings. The secret is prayer! The secret of bringing down these walls which are stopping people from hearing the gospel is prayer.