A week ago at sunset there was a wall of flames approaching our little town here in the Sierra Valley: #LoyaltonFire.
More than 700 firefighters had battled it for three days before it headed down the mountain toward spent and dry meadows that bordered our town of 860. The same angry beast had jumped two state highways in other directions the day before—one of those eight lanes wide. Now it was headed our way.
Because I have prayer walked my town for the last twenty-two years, I have seen the hand of God answer one prayer after another for my friends and neighbors. I knew God would work through the firefighters who were taking a stand at the highway. However, because I also formerly worked as a reporter for a daily newspaper, I wanted to see for myself what was going on. So, well after dark I walked to the other end of town to see the firefight for myself.
Like a child who is exhausted but still resisting going to bed, the fire was still arguing but waning—no larger than three side-by-side homecoming bonfires. All would be well.
Later I learned of miracles: a ranch with a historic barn surrounded by flames…saved, and an entire hillside burned but friends’ barn, home, and 100 sheep…untouched.
Two days later I read, “For the Lord will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard” (Isaiah 52:12 ESV). God may intervene directly in our lives, but sometimes He uses dozer operators, firefighters, and even writers to effect His sovereign plan. In any case we can always know He does indeed doze a path for us. He’s always got your back.
Janet McHenry is a speaker and the author of twenty-four books—six of those on prayer, including the bestselling PrayerWalk and her newest, The Complete Guide to the Prayers of Jesus. She and her rancher-husband Craig have raised four children in their little town in the Sierras, where she formerly taught English to every single high school junior and senior.
Prayerwalking: Walking for your health, praying for your community
Just over twenty years ago I found myself falling apart physically. I was huffing and puffing going up stairs. I needed painkillers to sleep. And the turning point occurred when I fell down the back steps because my knee had given way.
I needed to do something about my health, but I also knew God had been nudging me to spend more time with him. So I decided to get up a little earlier the next day to walk, and while I walked I would take care of my prayer lists.
There was a lot of my-ness in those prayers: my marriage, my kids, my teaching job. But that changed when I saw a young man entrust his blanketed little girl to the daycare worker outside Toddler Towers in our town of eight hundred in the Sierra Valley.
At that moment before six in the morning that little girl said, “Bye, Daddy. I love you.”
And I knew right then that God had me out on the streets of my town not so much for the my-ness of my prayers but more for the needs of the people in my community.
Walking as an exercise is making a comeback, and as we embrace it, we can multi-task our miles by praying for our neighborhoods. Here are some suggestions to carry it off well:
- Keep it simple. You don’t need fancy clothes—just a good pair of shoes and clothes that address weather needs.
- Schedule your walk. Put your prayerwalking times on your calendar. I’ve made the commitment to be out the door by 4 p.m. daily.
- Leave the buds. Music or podcasts can distract you from noticing the prayer needs around you, as well as oncoming traffic.
- Pray for what you see: schools, homes, commuters, and more.
Janet Holm McHenry is the author of twenty-four books, including the bestselling PrayerWalk: Becoming a Woman of Prayer and Strength and Discipline. She loves to speak about how God has transformed her life as she has partnered with Him in prayer. Connect with Janet through her Facebook author page, her group called The Walking Club, or her website: https://www.janetmchenry.com.