Jericho Walk

Jericho Walk: A way of praying modeled after Joshua 6, in which God instructs the Israelites to circle the walls of Jericho seven times and promises that he will deliver the city into their hands. During a Jericho Walk (sometimes called a Jericho March), modern Christians walk circles around a particular area, “claim it” in the name of Jesus, and pray for spiritual breakthrough.

jericho walkWe did the Jericho Prayer Walk around Buffalo Grove High School the same month that I wrote Satan on the bottom of my shoe with ball-point pen.

The girl from Teen Mania who kept calling to check the status of my summer mission trip fundraising (and of my spiritual life) suggested both, I think.

“You got to remind yourself that Satan is under your feet,” she drawled over the phone. “Claim God’s power. He has given that school to you, you just have to claim it and tell Satan he has no business interfering!”

I was a freshman in high school, dazzled by the idea of God’s power coursing through my words, changing my world in grand, sweeping ways.

I wanted revival, this vague, wild thing that would turn the harsh hallways of my school into Sunday Morning. And that is what I prayed for as I walked with one loyal friend seven times around the school perimeter, Jericho-style.

The words I prayed have been lost to my memory, but I can still remember the pictures I had in my head. The dreams I “claimed” that day as I walked. I wanted that tiny school Bible study to expand, to press against the walls of Mr. Strand’s biology room, to need a bigger space.

I saw us in the school theater, taking up all of the seats. I saw handsome guitar-playing boys and hands raised, and I don’t doubt that it was genuine. I believe that my sincere high-school heart desperately wanted people to know the Jesus that I so loved.

But I now also recognize the desperation that I felt to belong.

In so many ways, I felt my faith alienated me from high school life, from all that I’d been promised on Saved by the Bell, from the other kids with their short skirts and salty language and PDA against the orange metal lockers.

If the spiritual walls of my school crumbled like Jericho and God broke through, maybe that would change. Maybe I wouldn’t feel so alone.

*

I began my year-long study on prayer this week. My word for this year was ask, and right now it feels a little like an excavation.

I picked up The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson this week because it looked interesting to me on Amazon and because it was the only prayer book on my list carried by the Anoka County Library system. In the first chapter, Batterson recounts the legend of a holy man named Honi, who drew a circle in the sand and refused to move until God sent much-needed rain.

Once when I was trying to decide on where to go on a summer mission trip, my older, devout boyfriend gave me similar advice. I wrote about it here, and I still recall how my knees prickled under me as I knelt in a circle in my bedroom, praying for an Answer.

I’m only about forty pages in, but the words of this book feel barbed to me. They’re catching on all my prayer baggage and my doubt. When Batterson writes things like, “If your prayers aren’t impossible to you, they are insulting to God,” I get agitated. When he writes, “Most of us don’t get what we want simply because we don’t know what we want,” I get downright crabby.

That miraculous scene at Jericho, where God told his people, Don’t attack. Just march. I have given it to you, becomes an extended metaphor in the first pages of The Circle Maker. Batterson writes this of Jericho: “It not only reveals the way God performed this particular miracle; it also establishes a pattern to follow.”

And suddenly, the miracle has been reduced to a template. A how-to. A procedure.

*

This past year, I have been learning to extend grace and love to my former self. In those first wildly cynical post-evangelical days, I resented her – this fifteen year old girl who called herself a Jesus Freak.

Only now am I beginning to see the beauty of that faith-filled heart, that unwavering belief she had that the impossible thing would happen.

But the truth is, the girl who walked seven times around her school, praying for revival, didn’t really know her classmates at all. She knew her prayer-group friends and the members of the school Bible study, but she maintained a healthy distance from her unbelieving peers.

I wish I’d spent less time praying for revival and more time praying for Ryan. Susan. Jessica. Jeremy. I marched around them like they were something to be claimed, something to be conquered. I thought it was about faith, but in retrospect, I think it was really about fear.

I wish someone would have taught me the courage of love, of entering into other peoples’ pain. Of circling them not wide and war-like, but close-up, arms wrapped tight in an embrace.

*

When I read the story of Jericho now, I see the hot sun beating down and the long road. I see the wildness of a God who does things in a way that you’d never expect.

I don’t see a procedure, and though I know the cry of victory comes, it’s not what I hone in on when I read the story at age 29.

These days, the impossible things are not big and exciting. They make up the fabric of my daily life. A quiet voice of love in the middle of a tantrum. Energy to look beyond my tired, worn-out self and serve someone else. Patience. Peace. Faith. Especially faith.

So when I see Jericho now, “claim,” is not the word that jumps to my mind. It’s “believe.”

I think of tired, dust-covered feet. I see doubt and faith all mingling together day after long, hot day. I see it all there, captured in the quiet work of walking.

  • http://dlmayfield.wordpress.com d.l. mayfield

    i love this! as someone who is easing back into the prayer-walking habit, i sure do relate. except now add a cranky toddler, snow, and regular fights on the street to all the reasons making me want to stay inside. but it is forcing me outside, to look at the streets and my neighbors, forcing me to make connections instead of bland prayers. you are so right that it is all about the human connection.

    • Addie Zierman

      I’ve never really figured out to do prayer walking in a way that feels less like this Jericho conquer-the-city business and more like connection. Next time we get together, I’d love to hear how you do it. (When you can, what with the toddler and the ice. Yikes.)

      • http://www.throughaglass.net Kari

        Have you ever walked a labyrinth, Addie? I wonder if that would help you see walking prayer in a different way.

        • Addie Zierman

          Not in any intentional way. It’s on my list for the Year of Ask!

  • http://www.leighkramer.com HopefulLeigh

    Where do I even start? Sometimes when you write about yourself, I forget and think you’re writing about me. I never did a Jericho Walk around my high school but oh do I relate to those fears and that fresh-hearted faith. Anytime I see the wildness of God reduced to procedure, I cringe. He is faithful, He is true, but He is not predictable and isn’t that what we need? A God who sees beyond our finite limitations and imaginations? We may be naming and claiming something that might already be claimed or that we have no business doing such a thing.

    Incidentally, this is also probably why I haven’t read that book yet. The reviews I’ve read were enough to know it’s not for me. I know what it is to want certainty and easy answers and a formula but that doesn’t resonate with my life anymore.

    • Addie Zierman

      Yeah. I’d like to finish it, and I’m trying to find places where there are good things that I can take. I realize that for some, these “steps” will be exactly what they need to finally have the courage to speak their own prayers, and I don’t want to diminish that. But I have been to the place where the procedures stopped working, and it left me feeling lost.

      In some ways, I feel like it’s good for me to read through this. Like part of what discovering what prayer is going to look like for me in this new stage is to figure out what it WON’T look like…and giving myself the freedom to work through the reasons why that is.

  • Mike

    That first Mark Batterson quote makes me cringe almost as much as this one by Francis Chan: “Something is wrong when our lives make sense to unbelievers.” The one perpetrates the fallacy that walking with God should be mystical to us, that prayers we comprehend can’t possibly be what God wants from our hearts and minds. So we pray sham prayers from a false heart, distancing us from God. The second perpetrates the fallacy that our actions and motives should be incomprehensible to others, as though the needs and desires of unbelievers are so different from our own. So we add in Christian lingo and behavior, distancing us from others — circling wide and cold instead of close and warm.

    • http://sharmeetsworld.blogspot.com Shar

      Wow, this comment just summed up a thousand things my brain has been circling but hasn’t been able to put into form. Thanks, Mike. “…As though the needs and desires of unbelievers are so different from our own. So we add in Christian lingo and behavior, distancing us from others — circling wide and cold instead of close and warm.”

      • Addie Zierman

        That was a great line, wasn’t it? Go Mike!

    • Addie Zierman

      I haven’t read much Francis Chan, but my impression of him is that he likes to say really out-there things and over-state things to the nth degree…just to make people think. I’m sure that’s what Batterson is trying to do here too… to challenge readers to pray for “impossible” things and believe that God can do them. Still, it catches on my baggage, particularly when he insinuates that any prayer could be “insulting” to God. That only the “impossible” ones are worth it. I just don’t agree.

      But I do love what you said here: “as if the needs and desires of unbelievers are so different from our own.” Yes. I feel that way too. I spent so much time in high school focusing on how “different” I was, but really, we’re all so human.

  • Ambling Saint

    That book doesn’t sound like I want to read it either! You are so right about avoiding formulae. Grace is the total opposite of ‘If I do this then God will do that’, isn’t it?
    Blessings
    Ambling

    • Addie Zierman

      Yes. Absolutely. And there is so much freedom in realizing that there really is no formula at all.

  • http://wordsofjoy75.blogspot.co.uk Joy Lenton

    As someone who has done her fair share of ‘naming and claiming’ in the past (often with my end goal in view rather than God’s, I am ashamed to say) and been greatly discouraged by trying to follow formulaic procedures, I can relate to the Jericho-style prayer walk you describe here so well. Give me legs that move as they should and I’d probably join in with the best of them. My walking is all in my heart and head these days.
    However, as you say, loving others into the Kingdom is a better way to go. Our own ‘walls’ may seem like slight obstacles or minor barriers to some, but they are very real to us and in no less way require faith and belief in God’s heart of love and His grace and ability to respond and bring about the necessary changes.
    Books are useful. They can bring fresh insight and understanding. But there is no replacement for the experience of walking through the obstacles we face with our hands held tight in our heavenly Father’s hand, following His directives for our lives first and foremost.
    Keep on doing what you know to do as you live out the plan He has for you and keep on sharing it so beautifully here. Thanks, Addie. :)

    • Addie Zierman

      Thanks for this insightful and kind comment, Joy. Yes, the formulaic procedures have discouraged me too in the past. When they don’t “work” as they should, I always feel like I’m failing somehow, like I’m doing something wrong. As if you could fail at prayer. As if that’s a thing.

      • Nancy

        “As if you could fail at prayer. As if that’s a thing.”
        There’s so much piercing yet encouraging truth offered in today’s blog and in the many thoughtful comments… but those 2 sentences wrap up the package. Yes. Indeed. AS IF.
        Thanks so much, Addie and Addie’s followers!

  • http://www.justabitofsilliness.blogspot.com dawn

    More an more, I am convincee that the bulk of bad behavior (even well-intentioned, has it’s roots in fear. And the opposite of fear is love.

    • Addie Zierman

      Yes, yes, yes.

      • http://www.living-listening-loving.blogspot.com Kathleen Krueger

        Fear!! Yes. It is the motivating factor behind so much in the religious world in general. Yet the Apostle Paul said that he was compelled by ‘Christ’s love.’ Coming to the understanding of the subtle line that distinguishes the two different loves described below is big revelation.

        “I wish I’d spent less time praying for revival and more time praying for Ryan. Susan. Jessica. Jeremy. I marched around them like they were something to be claimed, something to be conquered. I thought it was about faith, but in retrospect, I think it was really about fear.

        I wish someone would have taught me the courage of love, of entering into other peoples’ pain. Of circling them not wide and war-like, but close-up, arms wrapped tight in an embrace.”

  • http://annieathome.com Annie Barnett

    Yes, like Leigh said, when I read your words, I could be hearing my own story. In some ways I’m grateful for the quirky ways I worked out faith in those day – I can see a bit of the grace in it now, but there is an equal amount of face-palming when I look back. It’s funny, this circling around things, and how you’re circling back around prayer, and the way this journey rolls sometimes. Grateful, always for your words and stories here, and the everyday hope offered.

    • Addie Zierman

      Thanks Annie. (Love “face-palming” as a verb and will use it from now on forever and ever.) I love circles too, which is part of the reason I picked up in the book. It’s like the definition of the essay — circling things around and around, picking up different truths along the way. I like it is a metaphor for prayer…I think I just need to figure out what a true kind of “circling” would look like for me. Less about conquering, more about figuring out I think.

  • http://joannadobson.wordpress.com/ Joanna

    Wonderful insights, Addie. I have been in a group that approached prayer in much the way you describe, and it seemed that many of the people in it found it helpful and effective. But I just felt that when things didn’t work out the way I prayed then it must be because there was something wrong with me and, in my worst moments, because God didn’t care for me as much as for my more confident friends. A book I have found helpful is Richard Foster’s Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, which is full of wisdom; restful and freeing, rather than pressurising.

    • http://wordsofjoy75.blogspot.co.uk Joy Lenton

      Just to say I agree with Joanna. The Richard Foster book on prayer is a classic and the best I’ve read on the topic. Worth checking out!

    • http://justabitofsilliness.blogspot.com Dawn

      Great book.

    • Addie Zierman

      Yes! That’s how I feel too when I read stuff like that, but you’re right. For some people it is new and life-changing and exciting, and certainly that matters too.

      Foster is DEFINITELY on my list of books to read. Loved his Celebration of Discipline when I read it years ago.

  • http://redemptionsbeauty.com Shelly Miller

    I have a similar background to yours, abhor my “name it and claim it” background and formulized faith and oddly, I didn’t take Mark Batterson the way you did at all. Oh I see where he goes there but maybe I’ve stepped out of that world so long that my perspective outweighs his experience. I’m actually leading a group of women twice my age through the book who don’t have dreams or know how to dream and I’m seeing their eyes light up as they read it. I saw your stack of books photo and now I’m interested in some of those titles your delving into. I hope you’ll keep us posted on the others as well. (Hope you got my email btw.)

    • Addie Zierman

      Like I said, I’ve only read the first 40 pages. And I do honor the fact that people are at different places. Thanks for the added perspective of the women in your group — the beauty of dreaming and meeting God in those dreams. Yes. Maybe in some ways, I’ve forgotten how to dream like that and how to ask big things of God. I’m going to have to think about that.

  • Skerrib

    Recovering church kid here, popping in to say thanks for this!

    • Addie Zierman

      You’re welcome! Thanks for popping in.

  • http://Www.underconstructionpaper.com Celia

    I’ve just recently found your blog, and I’m so taken with the things you’re writing. I feel like you’re speaking my language – well, I still speak a little evangelical but I’m trying to get back to just speaking real, real in my interactions with God and about God. Years of church teaching left me feeling like prayer was a formula to be activated, like if I prayed the right things in the right ways my life would look just right. After years of wrestling this out with God, this is what is left in my heart – The “burden” of prayer should not make me feel like I can control my life but like I can connect my life to Him…that releases His power, not mine. I am just starting to feel like I’m intimate with Him again, like prayer is a personal conversation with my best friend. I’m so intrigued to read what you write as you explore prayer yourself.

    • Addie Zierman

      Thanks for this kind comment Celia. I LOVE this line: “The “burden” of prayer should not make me feel like I can control my life but like I can connect my life to Him.” Beautiful.

  • http://www.thechurchofnopeople.com Matt @ The Church of No People

    Ha! Just today, I made an (empty) threat to some students that if they could not line up appropriately, we were going to do a Jericho walk around the school in the rain. They straightened right up. :)

    • Addie Zierman

      Excellent! I totally love that you said that.

  • http://www.recoveringchurchlady.com/ Susie Klein

    As I read your description of how your school would look if revival came, it took me back to my high school Bible study days. That is exactly what I pictured and prayed for. We kept reading and hearing about it happening in other schools and towns, it seemed possible! I really wanted being a Jesus Freak to be a cool thing. ‘If only the other kids could see us sitting on the front lawn laughing and being normal, even with open Bibles in our laps! ‘
    I was so very aware of the looks and stares. If anyone frowned at us, we called it “persecution”. Ha!

    • Addie Zierman

      Exactly. That was exactly me too.

  • http://vincenzofrancesco.wordpress.com/ Vincenzo

    Addie,

    My detector never allowed me to follow procedure-like faith of any kind. It created too much dissonance inside me. This could be due to three factors: 1) I had not grown up in the evangelical culture. 2) Being right-brained I had a deep aversion to recipe-style Christianity. 3) I was converted in a unconventional church composed of artists, musicians, singers, writers and poets who followed another voice than the mainstream one…

    Many thanks for this…
    Vincent

    • http://amblingsaint.wordpress.com/about/ Ambling Saint

      I love this comment, Vincent!
      Inner dissonance, exactly!
      Blessing
      Ambling

  • http://ecclesiaextraneus.wordpress.com Matt

    This is something I have been trying to get my head around. I have been thinking how so many Christian artists and bands are going for shocking and controversial, or hard line messages that make everyone but the most right-leaning Church members mad. It dawned on me that its really not all that hard to be bold and in your face in a way that offends and scares someone into a temporary change of mind. But it takes a lot of time and talent to ask the right vague open-ended questions that gets people thinking and eventually making a permanent change of heart. But its the model you see Jesus taking with the unbelieving masses. He saved the hell fire and brimstone for religious leaders of the day. There is a blog post about this I have been working on for days… but whether it ends up in the drafts folder or being published… we’ll see. Some day I hope to actually publish more posts than I have in the drafts folder :)

    BTW – in college I remember taking a Jericho walk around a local strip club during the day. The owner came out obviously drunk and wanted to see what was up. Our leader told him and asked him what he thought of Jesus. He blurted out “I love Jesus – He changed my life” and they stumbled back inside.

    • http://amblingsaint.wordpress.com/about/ Ambling Saint

      No battle plan but Love alone
      To bring another to His Throne
      To bring them there, in hate or fear
      Is not to draw them very near.

      Matt, publish those drafts – I’d love to read them! I’m only just starting out with blogging and it’s great fun, but you do have to take a risk, putting yourself out there.
      Or email one to me and I’ll encourage you to publish it!
      Blessing
      Ambling

    • Addie Zierman

      Very true. (And I noticed you published the blog post. So glad! Insightful and true.)

      • http://ecclesiaextraneus.wordpress.com Matt

        Thanks! Actually managed to belt out two in one month. Facebook posts this week made me want to throw down a reality check on “Real Men.” Sorry that I jacked the comment thread.

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