A story from Dan Crawford, professor and occupant of the Chair of Prayer at Southwestern Seminary, illustrates the crucial nature of prayer in effective evangelism, and how easily it can be overlooked.
A church in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area had attempted for seven years to establish a base of witness and ministry in an enormous apartment complex that housed 2,000 people. Various students from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary had tried various approaches, but apartment management had been adamant in refusing to allow any ministry in the complex. Finally a young woman was assigned the complex and she decided that if she were a resident there, God would open a door. She moved in, but nothing changed. The answer remained, "No."
One day, in Dr. Crawford's prayer class, she heard about prayerwalking - intercession in the world on behalf of a lost world. As she drove home that evening God showed her that they had tried everything but the first thing - prayer. Agreeing, in repentance, she determined to begin prayerwalking her complex. Management could not stop this ministry.
Although she was a complete novice at prayerwalking, she moved among the buildings interceding for the people in each apartment, looking to the Spirit for insight and impetus. Eventually, she sensed God leading her to contact her home church and ask them to join her in praying. They readily agreed. She sent a map of the complex, and they began to pray. Still, there was no progress. They felt compelled to cut the map into sections, and to assign each building among the Sunday school classes for prayer.
One day she sensed the Lord leading her to again approach the manager, and this time ask for just the names of a few children that she might contact. The answer was an immediate, "No." But rather than being disheartened, she was overwhelmed as the manager said, "No, you can't have the names of a few children, but if you can wait, I'll give you the names of all the children!"
The long list she handed her came with these words of answered prayer, "Feel free to visit in these apartments."
Sprinkle describes prayerwalking as walking alone or with a partner in a place where there are needs and praying as the Holy Spirit makes you sensitive and aware of needs.
"You probably would not know people are prayerwalking," Sprinkle said, "but you are constantly talking to God and to your partner. Being there helps you see and hear and sense; and that fires our prayers with what God is doing and how He wants us to pray," Sprinkle said.
He said someone has described this method as "praying on site with insight. The insight is brought by the Spirit of Christ."
For information on prayerwalking, call the International Prayer Strategy Office of the International Mission Board at 888-462-7729.
Randy Sprinkle is director of the International Prayer Strategy Office, International Mission Board.