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Seminary class puts feet to its prayers in Mexico

PUEBLA, Mexico (BP)–A six-month-old mission church in a Mexican village with 300 years of heritage and one year of evangelical Christian presence — your assignment: walk the streets of the village and pray for prospects of the mission, which still awaited its initial visitor.
Early in the morning you quietly trudge through the streets, your concentration otherworldly as you pass the town square and Catholic cathedral.
Your witness proves silent but effective. The mission’s first visitors, two women and four children, arrive before you do.
Welcome to prayer journeying.
Ten seminary students recently spent five days in the above and similar scenarios, praying in Puebla, Mexico, a town of 2 million people 60 miles east of Mexico City.
The trip was part of an experimental course on intercessory prayer taught by Dan Crawford, professor of evangelism and spiritual formation at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas.
“The idea is to just pray — there’s no building to construct, no Vacation Bible School, no survey, no preaching, no choir — we went to pray,” Crawford said. “From the time we got up in the morning ’til the time we got back to our residence at night, we prayed.”
The growing “prayer walk” movement can be traced to biblical times, Crawford noted. “Joshua, Enoch, Paul, even Jesus prayer walked.”
The Southwesterners prayed everywhere — in the airport, over property, at church buildings, inside classrooms and auditoriums, on streets and outside government buildings.
Memories of prayer on the campus of the University of Puebla are etched into the minds of the seminarians. The institution of 150,000 students is deeply rooted in socialism and Marxism. Southern Baptist missionaries work in a Baptist Student Union across the street because verbal religious witness on campus is prohibited.
“We stood in front of a mural depicting Marx, Lenin and evolution, and we prayed,” said Chris Walls, a master of divinity student from McKinney, Texas. “We stood in front of atheistic socialists and asked God to penetrate the university.”
“Half of the Mexican population is under the age of 25,” added Joy Averitt, master of divinity student from Clinton, Miss. “If the young people will become dissatisfied with traditions and seek real life in Christ, they will be real leaders.”
The team also lifted up pastors and national missionaries, first hearing their specific requests and then praying. “Everyone we prayed over was greatly encouraged,” said Averitt. “There are so few Christians in many areas. At least three-fourths of Mexican cities have no evangelical witness,” added her husband, John, a seminary employee from Thomson, Ga.
“I had always prayed for missionaries and foreign countries, but they were names on a paper or map,” Walls said. “Going and actually seeing what these Christian workers do is more than hearing needs through the grapevine; it’s watching the work in progress.”
The value of a prayer journey is multifaceted, according to the participants. “It allows a person to pray ‘On Site with Insight,'” said Crawford, quoting the prayer walk slogan. “You pray at the very place where you expect the prayer to be answered.”
“I learned to pray against strongholds,” said Joy Averitt. “I watched the Mexicans in their Catholic faith look at the Father as far away and Jesus as an emaciated figure on the cross. I was in awe of the deception, and praying in the midst of it required faith that God is moving where we cannot see anything happen before our eyes.”
Praying in agreement was vital, John Averitt said. “We prayed in unity according to the will of God, which included asking the Lord to raise up laborers, to plant and strengthen churches and to send out missionaries.
“Prayer walking opens up your senses,” he continued. “Unless you are called to missions or have a vocation, you may not feel useful in missions. Yet any person can go to walk and pray. It opens up a whole new world there and prompts you to pray more consistently here.”
Prayer walking could prove the avenue of a call to missions, however, as in the case of Wallses. “Prayer walking helps us focus more on things outside our own life. I felt called to career missions on this prayer journey — it was a time for me to develop a prayer mentality, focusing on the task that God has at hand.”
While praising prayer walking, Crawford warned against making the activity a form of spiritual elitism. “We’re not saying that there’s less value in praying across the miles. God can just as easily respond to a prayer I voice in my office. The significance lies in praying at the places and looking at the people for whom you’re praying.”
Neither does prayer walking take the place of evangelism, Averitt said. “Prayer opens things up in the spiritual realm. Resistance is broken by prayer, opening opportunities for other work to take place. People become receptive and interested through prayer.”
Crawford will continue prayer journeying with his students next semester. The intercessory prayer journey class will travel to El Salvador in the fall and to West Africa in the spring.

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  • Cindy Kerr