Off and on, as we have been praying the streets of East Grinstead, I have been reading The Way Under Our Feet” by Graham Usher. In his book Graham explains why walking is supremely good for heart, soul and body. It’s a remarkable book. Two passages link directly to the praying down our streets we have been doing …
“Jesus sent his twelve disciples out walking to local communities so they might spend time noticing what was going on and what was affecting people (Matt. 10.1-15; Mark 6.7-13; Luke 9.1-6). He warned them that it would not be easy when they proclaimed that ‘the kingdom of God has come near’. They were to respond to local need, ‘cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers and cast out demons’. Luke also records that 70 disciples were sent out in pairs and as they went, they were to pray asking ‘the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest’. When the disciples returned, Mark records that Jesus said ‘Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.’”
Graham also reminded me that “Prayer walking is also about love. It’s a moving way of showing care for a neighbourhood and can happen anywhere – in beautiful, ordinary or run-down places. All sorts of things can be the raw material for reflection: shop frontages, derelict alleyways, advertisements, graffiti, old statues, a community notice board, for sale signs, a tree-lined street . . . Listening quietly for God’s voice, being open to God’s prompting, trying to see with God’s eyes as we smell the air and taste the flavour of a place may bring the gift of on-site insight. The Holy Spirit dwells in us and everywhere and prayers of thanksgiving and concern, words of reconciliation and healing gestures will bring transformation to our communities. I’ve found prayer walks an invaluable way of getting to know an area.”
Recently, we visited another land and climbed to an ancient city, set on a magnificent hill overlooking the Mediterranean. We tried to imagine life in this place for the soldiers and civilians. As we walked the city’s streets sometimes the wind blast was so strong it almost blew us over. Just outside the city was a slope set aside for worship. This was on an exposed promontory high over the sea. Though both areas were diminished now, I reflected that, in their time, the then massive walls of jostled buildings would have created places of refuge for families and wider communities from wind, hail and the scorching sun. There were baths, community centres, wells, debating houses, ovens, shops, lawmaking assemblies, small houses and much larger dwellings. Though the walls were down, it was possible to picture life here just like on an East Grinstead prayer walk.