For much of my life, growing up in the church, prayer had a very specific context. Prayer was: head bowed, hands folded, eyes closed and if I were feeling especially introspective I would drop to my knees…maybe even lay on my face. I found myself to be quite the scatter brained person of prayer. I struggle to stay focused…remain on task…and often I struggled to even just remain awake.
I was/am a failure at being a prayer warrior (as my church was fond of calling it). War, apparently, was quite boring and I found myself becoming numb (physically and emotionally) as I pled with G_d to end my plight of needing to continue this incessant vigil. Yet, here I was in a place that deeply valued prayer so much so that those who were the most capable amongst us were held in high regard as our warriors! I am still unclear who their war was with. Were they fighting G_d on my behalf? In Jacob-esque fashion? Why did G_d even need to be subdued?
I began to view prayer like holding one’s breath. The more I practice the longer I should be able to go before needing to break the surface for some air. Though there is value in this way of thinking, is this REALLY all that G_d had in mind for a prayer life? Was there hope for me and my tiny spiritual lungs? I would often feel inadequate in settings where the prayers of others outlasted my attention span. I was made to feel as though my spiritual journey was being hindered by my lack of capacity.
In 1965 Abraham Joshua Heschel arrived in Selma, Alabama in order to march alongside Martin Luther King Jr. during a key point in the civil rights movement. Heschel, a prominent Jewish rabbi and scholar, was asked why he would come to Selma to be a part of the event. His reply has forever changed my views on prayer. He replied, “When I march in Selma, my feet are praying!” This ‘simple’ reply has captured my imagination ever since. Freeing me from only praying within the confines of my prayer closet. So, what does this idea of ‘praying with our feet’ look like?
As time has passed, I have become greatly aware of the many paths my feet have marched…whether it be be ‘where I go’, ‘who I go with’, ‘the route I take’or ‘when I choose to stand still.’ My prayer life quickly began to come to life. It actually took my prayer life from the occasional utterance to a recognition that unbeknownst to me I had always been praying without ceasing (1 Thes. 5.17). I began to even be confronted with the idea that some of those prayers were unhealthy, ungodly, and possibly even an offense to G_d.
Things began to change in my prayer life, I could no longer avoid praying, no longer make excuses about time and or energy, for every single step I took was a prayer to G_d. What were my steps praying for, pleading on behalf of, and ultimately repenting of? How does changing one’s steps change one’s prayers?
I realized that praying for the poor meant walking with them, serving them, and actively loving them. I could no longer pray that G_d handle it when He has called me to pray with my feet. It was no longer enough to toss in a line or two in regards to human trafficking and slavery but allow my feet to belie my prayers. I must walk the walk — or in this case — walk the prayer.
What does it look like when, as a people in pursuit of G_d, we begin to use our feet to proclaim our prayers? How would the world be impacted if our prayer informed our path?
I deeply believe that as we grow in discipleship that our believe and our behave will begin to align. The further along our discipleship path the more those two things begin to overlap or merge. So as we wrestle with what it means to disciple and/or be discipled we must constantly ask, “What do my feet pray?”
When we look at the gospels or the book of Acts we can clearly see that Jesus, the Apostles, and Paul believed in this concept. What can we learn about what they believed by where they walked?
I began to wrestle with what it meant to have ‘intercessory’ feet. What does it look like to stand on behalf of another with my feet? This gets at the heart of the scene of Selma. Abraham Joshua Heschel was interceding on behalf of the black community in their march for civil rights. Advocacy is a powerful way to do this, but I believe there are so many other moments in life to this other than on a grand scale.