As Christians, we are called to pray, and as intercessors, we may be given specific burdens to pray for by the Holy Spirit. All of us should pray for our community in some way - especially since it impacts family, neighbours, schools, businesses, churches and friends. Since I have such a missionary heart for overseas countries, sometimes I ‘forget’ the neighbourhoods in which I work or live. Several times I’ve been convicted of this, until the Holy Spirit convinced me to remember my own community of Kanata Lakes.
I was introduced to prayer-walks when attending a home-group in Thornhill eight years ago. One night we strategically walked in pairs and prayed for: the streets, houses and people in the surrounding area. I felt like a scout, like Joshua and Caleb in the book of Numbers. I was intrigued by this kind of prayer as a way to prepare hearts for the gospel, and for Jesus to touch peoples’ lives. The residents didn’t know they were being blessed. It was low-profile and also very intimate both with my prayer partner, and the Holy Spirit. I continued doing prayer-walks in downtown Toronto, Willowdale, Concord and Etobicoke. Four years ago, I had a very strong burden to prayer-walk in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by taking what Peter Wagner calls a prayer journey.1 I became a catalyst for locals within that city to prayerfully walk their own streets, to quietly bless where there have been many curses. I still have a burden to return to do more prayer-walks. Not all believers are called to prayer journeys, but all Christians can prayer-walk in their own neighbourhoods. You have the authority in Christ, to pray for any family, business, school, or neighbourhood related to you.2 The closer your connection, the more authority you have. However, even then you must be wise in not praying directly against major strongholds by yourself. If you are alone, pray with a partner and other intercessors afterward. Be patient and don’t react in frustration, or you will weaken your defences against a premature back-lash. This is a long-term goal.
Wagner calls prayer-walking "praying on site with insight."3 How do you gain this understanding? I would suggest first by the Holy Spirit, who gives you the initial and ongoing inspiration and guidance, and second by systematic study of your city. History of the community, families and events can uncover all sorts of prayer items, some of which are blessings and others the opposite. Sometimes sins have to be prayed and repented over to cleanse the area. Generational and cultural sins that affect families can also affect where they live (it is often necessary to pray through any new home you have bought or rented). Sometimes whole neighbourhoods are affected. This is part of healing our land, as we repent as residents of that community. Other times, an area has a blessed heritage, which can be prayerfully strengthened.
How was I convicted to have more compassion on my Ottawa community? As someone who moved here two years ago, I didn’t identify with the nouveau-riche high tech neighbours. My subdivision is five years old at the most, and when I prayed for a sense of the area, it seemed very dry spiritually. There was no sense of history, and living in a subdivision seemed boring. However, a local church included me in their worship team, and one Sunday, they had an exciting weekend with a missions emphasis. When we were singing "Raise up an Army O God," my eyes were on the window at the back of the church, which faced onto the corn fields of a local farmer. Beyond that, you could see a new subdivision that has been built behind my street. My heart softened for these new residents. Had they heard of Jesus? Did they have a life beyond their high tech careers? Suddenly my eyes were opened to see the words "Harvest Kanata" written over the sky. I knew that this was referring to praying in the people of this area of Kanata.
Finally, I had a sense that I actually belonged where I was planted and that I had a vision of how to pray in this area, which we have continued. Have you asked God about your own community? Have you wanted to reach out and don’t know where to start? Perhaps your neighbour’s hearts need to be softened, and what better way to bless them and prepare your own heart than to pray.
- Laurie-Ann Zachar Copple
Laurie-Ann is a Tyndale Seminary graduate and works in the ARM national office.
An abridged version of this article is available in the February 2001 Kneeling Army newsletter.