‘A mile with Jesus’ is prayer walk idea from Neighbourhood Prayer Network, Christian organisation that encourages people around the UK to pray for their streets. Going for a prayer walk will encourage all Christians to pray for their neighbourhoods and look forward to seeing the change.
I spoke to Rebekah Brettle, founder and executive director of Neighbourhood Prayer Network, about the prayer walk project, her walks and prayers. She also told me about other things that NPN does, like encouraging people to get to know each other and making British streets make feel less lonely. Read the interview and get inspired as I did during our conversation.
Was ‘A mile with Jesus’ your idea?
No, it was one of our volunteers Rachel Fola-Taiwo, national prayer coordinator at Neighbourhood Prayer Network, who came up with the idea. At the beginning 2016 we had a special prayer meeting, during which we listened to what God would like us to do throughout the year.
Rachel approached me at the end of that meeting and told me about prophetic dream she had in October 2015. In the dream, she ‘saw’ prayer chains springing up from different places, electric sparks coming together and forming a massive umbrella shape, with one stick that all the hands were holding onto. Then she could see traces of fire/lightening coming from the roads and streets and returning towards Heaven. She prayed about the vision for several weeks, fasting and praying. And she said to the Lord, ‘I will go a Mile with You,’ and she felt the Holy Spirit answer, ‘not just you, but as many as will go a mile with Him and He will go with them’.
Did you just get the idea straight away and thought NPN will do it?
As soon as I heard the idea, I said that we should look to launching it in 2016. Neighbourhood Prayer Network has a vision to see every street in the UK covered in prayer, with Christians, praying for, caring for and sharing Jesus with their immediate neighbours. This vision fits within our remit of praying for streets. As we believe ‘A Mile with Jesus’ is a God given vision, we want to do what we feel God is asking.
Is this going to be first time you’ll encourage people to do a prayer walk like this?
We have previously encouraged people to prayer walk streets over summer periods. We’ve written some guides in 2012 and shared testimony to encourage prayer walking, but ‘A Mile with Jesus’ feels different to this. This year we have only asked people who have signed up to pray for their streets to do this, but next year, we want to take this wider and ask other ministries to join us.
Do you know how many people is going to join this year and where they’ll be prayer walking?
We didn’t ask people to register, so we don’t have any record. Next year we may want to do that but just to know how many people is taking part and where they’re praying.
What about people who have never done a prayer walk? Can they join?
We know already that people pray for their streets but ‘A mile with Jesus’ is supposed to encourage people to consider praying for a wider area and if they do not already ‘prayer walk’ their local streets, to consider doing so. We produced a guide that should help them to start. But really it’s rather a guidance, because we want people to interpret the mile themselves.
It’s about inviting Jesus to walk a mile with you and seeing the surroundings through his eyes and praying for what He thinks need praying.
What things that may be?
Many people will surely pass through residential areas, so there’ll be a lot of houses. They may want to pray a general blessing over all of them but may be prompted to stop at one specific and pray for that household. You may pray for specific groups of people that you’ll be passing by – students, elderly or disabled.
But really we want people to shape that mile according to their relationship with Jesus. Even if we had a 100 people doing a mile on the same day in the same city we would get 100 different testimonies. Every prayer walk is different, even if done in the same area, because it’s God who leads.
Where are you going to do your mile?
In fact, I’m going to speak at an event in London that day. So I’m going to do a mile on my way home from the station in Manchester.
Have you done similar things in the past?
Yes, and there’s one journey that I specifically remember. It was one of the most intimate time I’ve ever had with Jesus. I was on the train from Manchester to London and God specifically told me to pray for the needs of three people travelling with me on that train.
On the other leg of this journey I was walking through the streets of London. It was a very short walk – from Westminster tube station to the building opposite Westminster Abbey. During the walk I felt to pray for all those people coming from different groups and backgrounds, because Jesus wants all of them to get to know him. I just prayed a general blessing over them.
Another time I was passing the fields as I was driving on a motorway. I felt God speaking to me from the scripture about workers being few but harvest being great. I felt He said He wanted everybody to get to know Him.
Why is it important to be a walk and not another prayer meeting when you pray for the community?
Prayer walk helps you to focus on your locality. It’s setting up a partnership with Jesus and continuing to pray.
Personally, I feel it makes me more aware of people and the things around me. It also makes me more compassionate and caring. This kind of prayer changes hearts. Prayer walking widens your horizon. If I was kneeling to pray by my bed I wouldn’t think about praying for a betting shop but as I go through the town I may see one and feel to pray for people inside, because they need Jesus.
What’s your favourite prayer walking area?
It’s the street I live on. It’s quite long, so very good for that. There’s something powerful about praying for the same place over and over again.
I’ve always had a heart for the streets. When I was 8 or 9 I was very close to my grandma. She kept saying she was missing WWII. She wasn’t of course missing the war but the sense of community. I remember standing at my window and looking out onto my street and thinking that she was right. You could be forgiven for thinking that no-one else lived on the street, such was the lack of interaction between people. I had a moment, not some audible voice, but a feeling that God was going to use me in the future to help change that.
At 14 I became an atheist and after a long journey, came back to faith at the age of 26. Almost immediately I felt God reminding me of this time when I was a child. Working as an A and E junior doctor I saw the terrible mess that society was in. Later when I worked as a GP, I just saw how lonely people are. I have visited many many patients who live alone and have no visitors the whole month!
We’re very good at communicating through Facebook or Twitter with people who live across the world but we don’t know what’s happening with our next door neighbour.
Did that lead you to set up Neighbourhood Prayer Network?
In 2007, I started volunteering in Christian ministry. At first I was organising a year of 24-7 prayer across Greater Manchester with 134 churches involved and every hour of the year covered in prayer. I also worked on HOPE 08 in Greater Manchester as a volunteer and with Debra Green as a volunteer.
The vision of getting every street in the UK covered in prayer, originally filled me with excitement, until I realised what a huge vision it was. Life circumstances were very difficult. I met with Carl Brettle, to see if he would take the vision on. He refused, but nine months later we got married. He has been helping me ever since. We formally launched at the National Day of Prayer, in Wembley stadium in 2012.
Our vision is simple – pray, care, share. We want people to focus on prayer but also to get to know each other to make streets less lonely. In four years since we started the network, we’ve had fantastic testimonies. People said that they street became more friendly. Others said that the crime went down, that drug dealers moved out or people started going to the church.
We believe there will be more people praying for their streets. Even if you think your prayer is only a small thing remember that it is important.
If you want to know more, please sign up to pray for your street or to receive our weekly newsletter.
Download your own 6-steps guide to going on a prayer walk If you’ve felt inspired by what Rebekah has said and you would like to go on your own prayer walk, sign up with your email below and download the guide*. If you’ve enjoyed reading this post, please consider leaving a comment.