Chicago has long been a hotbed of violence, mostly gang-related, with shooting statistics climbing every weekend. It has recently gained more attention. I have a sister who lives in a suburb outside the city and a niece who works in a trauma unit at a hospital inside the city. They know the statistics and grieve for the city they love.
So does local pastor Edgar Rodriguez, pastor of New City Fellowship in Chicago. His burden for the communities riddled by violence led him to action, organizing prayer walks around the city. The walks began at 6 p.m. on July 13 with two other men, and Rodriguez hopes to continue through September with more participants.
In an interview with Baptist Press, Rodriguez said “My heart behind it is (that) the truth of the Gospel and God’s people being salt and light, would be able to engage these places. Potentially me calling people to march and walk would spur them on to not only just do it as a one-time thing, but in their rhythm of everyday . . . (to) engage, pursue and be present in these places especially where these shootings were taking place, in hopes that the kingdom of God would invade these spaces.”
What you can do, even in the midst of chaos
Prayer walks are used on mission fields. When my son was involved with missions in a precarious area of the world, church groups who came for short visits conducted prayer walks around the city. He told them they may be the only ones to pray for the people they saw.
We often feel helpless when chaos envelopes the world around us. What changes can our prayers make? We cannot change the hearts of people instigating violence and hatred. But the Holy Spirit can. What seems utterly hopeless to us is never “too hard” for God (Genesis 18:14, Jeremiah 32:27).
Prayer walking takes our prayers to the places we want to see God’s power and presence work in people’s hearts. When it is not practical to walk in those places, reading through the news with our eyes on the sovereign God who holds the universe in the palm of his hand (Isaiah 40:26), and praying instead of despairing, walks our prayers through the chaos.
In 2 Chronicles 20, Jehoshaphat prayed, “We are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (v. 12 emphasis added).
To which God replied, “Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s” (v. 17).
We face a “great horde” in our world and in our communities today. The spiritual warfare we face can only be fought in the spiritual realm. We are not fighting other people, but “against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).
Prayer confronts the enemy—on God’s terms.