Prayerwalking: Reaching a city on foot

EDITOR'S NOTE: Indonesia is the country of focus for the current International Mission Study by Woman's Missionary Union. IMB workers featured in this study are supported through the Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Find IMS study resources at imb.org/ims and wmu.com/IMS.

INDONESIA (BP) -- It started with a map and a book.

The map laid out the sprawling city in which International Mission Board worker Howard Brackey* lives. The book challenged Howard to put feet to his prayers for the city.

The book hit close to home. In "That None Should Perish: How to Reach Entire Cities for Christ Through Prayer Evangelism," author Ed Silvoso described undertaking the task of prayerwalking a large South American city. As Howard read the book, he thought about his well-creased map of his large Indonesian city.

"God put the vision of this particular map in my head. I thought, 'All right, we're going to prayerwalk this city.'"

As part of an urban city team, Howard figured he and his teammates could at least prayerwalk major roads in the city that is roughly the same size as St. Louis but, like most Asian cities, is densely populated with millions of people.

"I thought, 'Even if no one helps me, I can personally get out and walk these big roads,'" Howard said. When he was walking a major road one day, however, he glanced sideways.

"I'm down one of the roads and I look down a side alley and there's these two or three little grandmas and some little kids running around," he recounted. "And I found myself gravitating toward that road and praying for those people. That's when I realized we needed to pray for every [single] road. We needed to pray for the entire city."

Howard's team members joined him in the task and once they had committed as a group to pray for every street, he said the Lord provided a surplus of church volunteers from the United States that summer. More than 50 volunteers came to help partner in other ways but also invested a portion of their time to prayerwalk. One volunteer specifically came to prayerwalk.

Mapping hope

On Howard's now somewhat worn map, twisting purple-marker lines indicate the areas volunteers and team members have prayed their way through. The northwest corner of the map is covered with lines snaking over most of the tiny streets, some winding in curves and others in ordered grids. Howard sweeps his hand over one portion of the map.

"This block took us about 100 hours to do," he said. "At this point, I think it's going to take over 100 people to be a part of this. And it will easily be over 1,000 hours combined."

Howard also has marked other areas on the map with large red dots, smaller black dots, green stars and other color-coded features to signify where leaders in the community live or work and places of authority in the city, such as police stations and government offices. Although the goal is to pray for people on every street in the city, team and volunteer prayerwalkers are strategic about where and when to focus their prayers. For instance, if prayerwalkers are out on Fridays, they have a special assignment -- the mosques.

Equipping volunteers

When volunteers head out to the streets, the team equips them with maps and sets of index cards tied together with string. Some cards prompt them in specific prayers. Some carry verses such as 1 Timothy 2:1-6,8 to pray for the city, while others prompt prayers for God to be glorified, IMB workers and local believers to be bold and Muslims to find the truth.

It was a Friday when Howard's wife Rosemary* and two others chose the area around the city's largest mosque to prayerwalk. They were able to climb the stairs up into one of the towers, and after they came back down, a man invited them inside the mosque. Rosemary had not been in this mosque since moving to the city.

When a man who wanted to practice his English approached them, Rosemary was able to ask him questions about Islam. "I asked about how one gets their sins forgiven [in Islam]," she said. This question led to a conversation that allowed Rosemary and her prayerwalking partners, another woman and a man, to share with the man -- there in the mosque -- about the forgiveness of Christ.

"We had a Book of Luke in contextualized language. I handed it to him and told him it was a gift to say thank you for answering all of our questions. We came back and prayed that he would read it."

Howard believes it is imperative to pray on Fridays for those who are worshipping in mosques, taking part in Friday prayers and listening to the imam's sermon.

"You have people who are truly seeking God. They're not just seeking the religion part. They are seeking God -- how do you reach God? And this is the only way they know how to do it," Howard explained. "James 4:8 [ESV] says, 'Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.' I pray that over our Muslim friends when they're seeking, when they're saying, 'I just want to know the truth.' That's what we're praying they will find."

For more information on prayerwalking or other ministry opportunities, email urbanseap@gmail.com.

Pray right where you are

About half of Indonesia's population lives in urban centers -- at least 124 million.

-- Pray for Indonesian believers to live in obedience to God and share the story of Jesus fearlessly and clearly.

-- Pray for people's hearts to be receptive to the Gospel and spiritual eyes would be opened.

-- Pray that nonbelievers would repent and believe and their lives would be transformed.

*Name changed.

Writer Elaine Gaston has served overseas with her family in restricted-access countries. She is now based in the U.S.
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