Developing eyes to see what God sees - Prayer Walking: a practice for shalom-seekers in the neighbor
This is the third Lenten season that The Corners of HighlandHeights Community of Shalom has coordinated a weekly prayer walk in their community. Each Tuesday they meet at a different church in Highland Heights and the surrounding area. From their starting point, they walk in small teams to the school, along the commercial corridor, and in residential pockets where gangs and violence are threatening the neighborhood.
I joined them this past Tuesday as they walked, met shopkeepers along Summer, and prayed for the welfare of the community.
I was first introduced to prayer walking through a seminary class called ‘engaged spirituality’ where I learned about Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk. Click here to learn more. Some of my riches moments of being in God’s presence are the times that I walk with prayerful intent, slowing down, and becoming mindful to both my surroundings and to God.
During these times I become so present to the world around me that I see things that I would not normally see. One of the things that happens quite often and gives me great joy is seeing a four leaf clover, among a patch of clover, along the path as I walk. This clover sighting means for me that I have slowed down enough, and become present enough to God’s creation, to know and experience that God is with me.
As I walked along the south side of Summer Avenue (west of Highland) this week, there was no clover. There were no people on the street and most of the old store fronts had padlocked doors and windows that had been covered over so that one could not see in. On first look, this was a place devoid of life, empty and vacant.
Someone suggested that we walk along the backside of the row of stores. Here we found shopkeepers, open doors, and lots of beautiful and colorful displays! I was particularly struck by the diversity and nationalities represented by the shopkeepers, each proprietor originating from a different continent. Some were new to the country and new to business ownership eagerly hopeful that their business would support their family. Some stores were decades old and determined to hold on, even among the age of big box retail and chains.
The four leaf clovers for me this day were the uniquely beautiful shopkeepers, their hopes and aspirations, and the ways in which they sought to serve the community through their stores (thrift store, pharmacy, low cost goods, etc.).
The purpose of prayer-walking in a shalom zone is to seek God's guidance, mercy, and transforming power—both for the community, and for ourselves as God's servants in the community. Seeking to experience God’s eyes, ears and heart for the neighborhood, The Corners Shalom Team will be reflecting together in the coming weeks about what has been seen and experienced through the weekly prayer walks.
The key question will be “how are we being shaped as God’s agents for shalom in this community?”
You can find many resources on the internet for organizing a prayer walk in your community. This guide provides instructions and questions for reflecting upon the experience.