During my sophomore year at the University of Illinois, I joined a Bible Study led by a guy named Bill Wargula. Bill was probably a junior or senior at the time, but he was significantly older than the rest of us because he had already spent 6 years in the Air Force. In fact, as I remember, that’s where he came to Christ. So unlike most juniors, Bill had life experience, not to mention a strong love for the Lord. And he took me under his wing.
During those days, I was considering going back to West Point, or at least applying. In later years I would recognize West Point as an idol in my life, but in those days I was confused, and leaning on his military experience, Bill helped talk me through it.
Along with some other guys who lived on Bill’s dorm floor – Carl, Kevin, Max and Phil – together we worked our way through the Navigators’ Design for Discipleship Bible study. I know Bill taught me a lot, but if there was one lesson I remember learning from him, it was a particular way to pray. Bill liked to pray as he walked, and he passed on his love for this to me.
He did it quite a bit, but I’ll never forget when his girlfriend Rita broke up with him. I think Bill really thought she was the one (Nancy would be glad she wasn’t today), and my friend took it hard. He sorted out his broken heart during long walks with the Lord.
So along the way, I began to follow in Bill’s footsteps, so to speak. And, for me, it was life changing. I found something freeing about taking off on a walk for the purpose of communing with the Living God. Sitting in my dorm room and praying was fine, but walking and praying became more about the relationship, about enjoying God. This habit became a way for me to really “pour out my heart to the Lord” (Psalm 62) in a way that sitting or even kneeling in the same place didn’t usually allow. To this day, the University of Illinois campus is a holy place to me, and I think a large reason is that it became consecrated during my own long walks with the Lord in those college days.
If you want to know more about it, I can recommend some reading: My buddy Jeff Brower introduced me to a great book on the topic called Long Wandering Prayer, written by David Jansen. Jansen speaks of two kinds of prayer, 1) Praying the Psalms (I talked about this the other day here) and 2) Praying like the Psalms. Walking and praying is not formal prayer, although you can certainly bring your list along with you, but it’s great for praying like the Psalms.
But even better than reading about it, I think the best bet is to just start. Some day when you want to pray but are feeling a bit restless, head out (March and April are just around the corner) for a walk and as you go, tell the Lord whatever is on your mind. Talk to Him for the pure joy of talking to Him. I think you’ll find it one of the best things you have ever done.
Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.
Psalm 62:8 (NIV)