It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I love to walk. I love to put one foot in front of the other. I love to get outside and move. My children, too, love to walk. The simple joy of seeing their stroller brings cheers. They wave to anyone who passes by on foot or by car. In our walks we cherish both the silence and the conversation.
I pray and walk. I walk and pray.
An African proverb says, “When you pray, move your feet.” One summer while working with high schoolers I shared my love of walking and prayer. One morning we gathered to walk both a labyrinth and the neighborhood streets in prayer. The morning brought us to a main road with traffic buzzing by and a lawn service arriving. We talked about labyrinths and prayer. Our words of prayer interspersed with the startup of the lawnmower. Cars and mowers echoed their own prayers as we talked.
We then scattered to walk and pray. To pray and walk.
All around us life whizzed by at a fast pace. The sounds of life and work interrupting our thoughts. Calling us to look in other directions. Yet we continued to walk. We continued to pray.
We turned our attention to those interruptions.
An ambulance drove by and we prayed for first responders and all those who were hurt.
The lawnmower whirred to our side and we prayed for workers and fair, just wages.
White ribbons marked the trees and we prayed for the family grieving a loss.
A man and his dog drew our prayers of thanks for companionship.
A gardener worked the soil and we prayed for creation.
The children walked to school and we prayed for places of learning.
We walked and we prayed. We prayed and we walked.
That morning, those few minutes, our calling was to walk and pray.
To pray and move our feet.
We didn’t know the people for whom our prayers ascended.
We didn’t know their names or circumstances.
We didn’t know what joys and struggles lived in the homes.
We only knew that we could pray. And trusted that it does make a difference.
To get out and walk, to feel the ground under our feet, to follow the steps that others trod.
That was our call.
That is our call: to pray and move our feet.
As we walked through the neighborhood the sky began to look ominous. We heard thunder in the distance. Our plan was to meet back at the labyrinth following the prayer walk through the neighborhood. To offer our prayers for the community and to then walk to the center of the labyrinth. To bring all our prayers and thoughts and joys and struggles with us. As the storm moved closer and closer we all made our way to the labyrinth. I arrived last and saw the others walking. Praying. Trusting.
Moving in a circle to the center.
Each along the path.
Each bound to one another and to the paths we just walked.
Each bound to this community in a new way.
This is prayer.
This is faith.
To continue to move our feet and bodies, to continue offering prayers even when we can’t see the outcome, and to follow the One who meets us in the center, right in the heart of life, and holds us.
The rain did come. A downpour. A fitting culmination to our morning.
The water blessed and claimed us.
Kimberly Knowle-Zeller is an ordained ELCA pastor, mother of two, and spouse of an ELCA pastor. She lives with her family in Cole Camp, MO. You can read more at her website: http://kimberlyknowlezeller.com or follow her work on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KimberlyKnowleZeller/