“And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people.” (Rev. 5:8)
In South Asia: A well-dressed, cosmopolitan woman on her cell phone stops mid-stride to pay homage to a specific tree god that has a ribbon around it, offerings of fruit and coconut beside it. A driver in a sports car weaves and cuts through bumper-to-bumper traffic in a mega-city, passing young pros on their motorcycles and bicycle rickshaw drivers earning about two dollars a day. On village farms, men, women and children work long hours in the hot sun with rudimentary farm tools. Muslim men file down the sidewalks towards the mosque for Friday prayers. Hindu families purchase flowers and fruit on their way into their temples, then ring a bell to wake up their gods so they can be seen giving their offerings.
In Southeast Asia: Large domed stupas holding a relic of the Buddha (a hair, a bone, a toenail), attract thousands of worshippers who come to circle the structure and offer prayers. Sex workers call out to tourists visiting a night bazaar in a bustling tropical city. Children orphaned by AIDS barely survive on the streets unless they are rescued by some ministry. Cities stand impressively with towering skyscrapers, wide paved streets and beautiful malls, but hide the depravity within.
Though prayerwalking, God has shared with me a bit of His broken heart over the lostness of His children.
In North Carolina: A rusted bicycle lays unused with flat tires in an apartment complex littered with beer bottles and a couple of old grills. A beautiful house sits in a neighborhood, surrounded by a manicured lawn, three closed garage doors, and alarm company signs in the yard. A trailer door discourages visitors, plastered with “Go Away,” “Beware of Dog” and “My Camera is On” signs. People walk their dogs in a suburban neighborhood, looking at their phones. Families enjoy their day at a playground. A homeless man holds a sign at a stoplight.
After prayerwalking with other believers in many locations, I can say that it is not always a glorious experience. Can you sense the lostness in the scenes described above? I can’t paint a picture of all the sights, smells and noise, but I can tell you that I’ve almost been overcome by the brokenness. How can people believe the lies? Why do they look for peace and pleasure in things that will not last? Why do the innocent have to suffer? How can people be so evil? Why do some isolate themselves behind closed doors and by staring at their phones? Through prayerwalking, God has shared with me a bit of His broken heart over the lostness of His children.
Yet He is love. He is longsuffering and kind, not wanting any to perish. He calls His people to pray, stand in the gap for these lost ones and intercede on their behalf. He asks us to put on our armor and battle against the spiritual forces of darkness. Whether we are in a foreign land or walking in a pocket of lostness in our own backyard, God invites us to speak Scripture over the lost and claim His promises of salvation. He calls us to care and to hope. He calls us to see.
May our prayers be as incense filling the golden bowls placed before the Lamb. (Rev. 5:8)