By Alli Bauck
I remember being introduced to the concept of a prayer walk when I was in 8th grade. My confirmation class was enjoying a weekend retreat at a Kansas camp, quite the “rustic” setting for this suburban, adolescent female. For one of the stations during our time of prayer, I received a sealed envelope with my name on it and instructions to find a quiet place to read.
Outside the main cabin, I found a terraced slope with some shaded, flat rocks. When I had settled into my “quiet spot,” I pulled the cream-colored envelope from my jacket pocket and opened it. Printed on my church’s stationary was a letter to me, from Jesus. Using Scripture passages and some bridging text, my pastor had created a physical interaction that made Christ more personal to me. That experience of interacting with God’s Word outside of my regular routine was so impactful that I saved the letter, tucked inside my copy of Luther’s Small Catechism. It marked a small step toward a stronger relationship with Jesus.
Seventeen years later, I was approached by a friend and fellow sister in Christ with a request: to write a prayer walk for a LWML event. (Lutheran Women in Mission welcomes and encourages women to use their unique God-given gifts as they support global missions and serves the Lord with gladness.) I enthusiastically agreed and created a prayer walk resource for the group’s needs.
That was my first attempt at trying to create a guide that facilitated prayer. Looking back on it now, from a distance of a few years, I realize how self-reflective that first prayer walk felt. The exercises were driven by the participant: “[you] do this”, “[you] think about this”, “[you] read this and write about…”
At the time, my understanding of a prayer walk was a reflection of my experiences and faith life—which is not to say that the stations in that walk failed to promote prayer; I believe they did. However, I have since deepened my understanding of what prayer is and CAN BE.
When my brace-faced self read those red letter words from Jesus, it was more than an exercise of having “quiet time” in the woods. It was memorable to me because it felt like Christ was communicating with me in a way I had not experienced before. When I wrote that first prayer walk for my area women’s event, I was trying to make prayer tangible and personal for them, too—but I was still viewing prayer as a one-sided conversation.
In 2020 I journeyed through several of Next Step Press’s hymn journals. One of the Visual Faith Experiments I tried asked me to pray that Jesus would tell me how He saw me. I read through the directions several times to make sure I was understanding the activity correctly: I was supposed to be quiet and let Jesus speak to me? It wasn’t like 8th grade when I had a special letter of His Words. It wasn’t like other times of prayer when I did all the talking. It was asking me to sit in silence and LISTEN.
The sun was setting and the evening air was warm and calm. I took my journal outside, thinking a change of location would enhance my meditation. I made sure I had a clean and comfortable space to sit, I pulled up a relaxing instrumental music playlist on my phone, and I opened my time with a word of prayer. And then I waited. It was difficult to ignore the thoughts of discomfort and the temptation to dismiss the experiment as “too awkward for me to complete.” I was not practiced in perceiving my prayer time as a dialogue. How often do you initiate prayer without pausing to hear a response?
As I sat in the fading light trying to keep my mind clear and my thoughts focused, I pushed down the panic that I would not “hear” my Lord’s response. Yet, despite my doubts, the Holy Spirit pulled out the letters that were tucked away in my heart. The Spirit reminded me of the promises written in Scripture, telling about how Jesus sees me. As I listened, the affirmations filled my journal page: my heart was full.
A few months ago, I was approached again—this time by the President of Christian Life Committee for the LWML—to use my God-given gift of writing to create another prayer walk resource. My mother and I worked on it together. We were led to craft a guide to help leaders facilitate prayer exercises for their groups’ meetings and events. We wanted to offer a variety of experiments to encourage deeper connections with God and God’s Word.
This recent resource also flows from my own experiences and faith life. This time around, I was excited to include many “new” prayer walk ideas, experiments grounded in Scripture that invite people to speak and to listen in prayer.
Our goal was not just to inspire more prayer walks (in group or individual settings) but we wanted to embolden participants to think of prayer as less of a one-sided, self-centric interaction. Prayer is a dialogue. Prayer is an act of communicating with our Creator, Who desires an ever-growing, closer-walking relationship with us.
I wish I could end this by saying that I have my prayer life down pat. As a mom of littles I am in a busy season of life; there are not many calm moments to just be still and abide with my Creator. True, my understanding and experience of prayer has grown, and I’ve enjoyed widening my view to help me see prayer in different, creative ways. However, some days feel less like a “walk” and more like a “run for your life”! The only “conversation” I have with Jesus might be a sigh of relief when I find the marble we thought my baby swallowed—and the Holy Spirit is doing most of the talking: constantly interceding on my behalf.
Below you will find a link to the prayer walk guide. My hope is that this resource will help you engage in prayer—either in a familiar or a new way. Whether you try the activities in a group or individually, I pray this guide creates opportunity for more meaningful conversations with the Triune God. Will you take a step with me so that we, like Adam and Eve in the Garden, may walk in relationship with our Maker, together?
Download the Prayer Walk Guide: https://www.lwml.org/posts/litany/walking-in-prayer
Learn more about Lutheran Women in Mission: https://www.lwml.org/home