Prayer Walking: Rediscovering the Power of Prayer
At Greater Europe Mission, we often say that “the gospel moves at the speed of relationship.” But what is the value of some forms of open-air evangelism, such as prayer walking, in a society where intentional relationship building is often a crucial step in sharing the gospel?
“We can’t do anything without a firm foundation of prayer,” explained GEM worker Nick Scholl, looking thoughtfully over at his wife Alyx in the living room of their little Italian apartment.
The priority of prayer is the heart behind the weekly prayer walking that Alyx and Nick, who have been in Rome for just over a year, do in their community. They partner with two other global workers, Shawn Harmon and Faith York, to cover the neighbourhoods of Vittorio Emanuele, Teano, and Furio Camillo in prayer.
Getting out into the community and being involved in everyday life is a priority for this young couple. “We want to get to know people in general, but we also want them to know who we are,” Alyx explained.
Each week, they meet at the entrance to the local park and then begin walking in a loop, praying in English or Italian. When they spot someone who isn’t busy, they go up to them and ask if they would like prayer.
“It’s really difficult and awkward,” Alyx admitted. “Prayer walking has taught us dependency on God and the Holy Spirit working, and also not needing to see results to know that what we’re doing has an impact.”
Nick agrees. “I’m not here for me. God cares so much about these people, and I should also care about them. Prayer walking has shown me a deeper heart for people here in Rome.”
Prayer walking also gets all the small talk out of the way and allows you to connect with those who are interested in spiritual things immediately. Some people say yes, others refuse to accept prayer, and others are curious about who Nick and Alyx are and why they’re there.
Alyx smiled as she described one memorable person they’ve met on their prayer walks: Tawhid, a Gambian with amazing dreads and a warm smile who pushes an elderly man in a wheelchair daily. Despite his insistence on how “very Muslim he is,” when Shawn asked if Tawhid would be interested in reading the Bible, he agreed. Alyx explained how this experience pushed them out of their comfort zones and opened her eyes to people’s openness to discussing spiritual things and connecting. “He just likes us!” she laughed.
Shawn, a missionary who started working in Sicily and transferred to Rome a couple of years ago, has a special heart for prayer walking because immigrants—especially Muslims—are open to discussing faith. So prayer walking is “an effective way to start up those conversations that are waiting for you. . . . It teaches you how to listen.”
One example is Saif, a man from Afghanistan whom Shawn met on a prayer walk. When asked, Saif immediately accepted the prayer. “We assured him that we weren’t praying because it’s a fun little thing we like to do, but because we genuinely cared about him and believe God answers prayer,” Shawn explained. This insistence on the power of prayer gained Saif’s respect and eventually led to Saif’s accepting Christ and getting baptized.
Faith York is another young person who has seen the power of prayer through prayer walking, despite all the rejections.
“You’re going to get turned down a lot,” she admitted. “Sometimes it’s a hard no, and sometimes it’s just an ‘I’m not really interested’”—but people often open up eventually.
One day, Faith was prayer walking with a group of English-speaking students. They prayed for English speakers, and they ended up meeting three Muslim men who spoke English. Each student was able to have a meaningful conversation. Another day, Faith had a French-speaking intern who prayed for French speakers, and they got so many that day.
“God was really putting people in our path to speak to,” she concluded. “We don’t know what happens with the seeds we plant, but we know we were supposed to have those conversations.”
Faith has a vision of connecting believers to cover the whole city of Rome in prayer. “Around the world, we see the power of prayer,” she insisted. She has an idea of making an online platform that organizes prayer for specific people groups concentrated in different areas of the city, and she boldly dreams of every street in Rome being covered in prayer.
Nick’s words sum up the vision of these young prayer walkers: “We’re all striving to see the kingdom grow,” he said. “And that comes by caring about people and their spiritual futures.”
Yes, the gospel moves at the speed of relationships. But you never know what relationships a chance encounter while prayer walking might bring.
Would you join us in praying for the streets of Rome to be filled with followers of Jesus interceding for God to bring hope to the people of Rome? And pray for those Alyx, Nick, Shawn and Faith meet—that God might open their eyes and draw them into a relationship with Jesus.
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