Walking in Prayer

Melinda Rutland

“Way out of my comfort zone” is how Nancy Petitto described it. As she reflected on her initial feelings about the prayer walk, she laughed. Nancy felt a deep sense of God calling her to take a lead role in response to Pastor Matt’s request for us, as a church, to pray about the Vision Development Workshop on June 15 and 16. Nancy shared, “I was petrified to lead. I’m more of an organizer and I like to stay in the background, thank you very much! But after fasting and praying that whole day, I decided I’m going to let God do His thing because this is His walk.”

True to Nancy’s premonition, God, indeed, did an amazing thing.

On Thursday, June 14, over 30 people gathered to journey the grounds of Northland’s Longwood campus beseeching God to be present and to speak clearly, not only in the meetings surrounding this new chapter in Northland’s story, but in the lives and hearts of His people.

A long-time Northlander since 1996, Nancy is well connected through her service in multiple ministries, including Children’s Ministries. Initially she reached out to people she knew through social media and word of mouth. She wasn’t sure if people would come, but God had orchestrated a delightful surprise for her.

As it turns out, another congregant, who also joined Northland in 1996, started an evening prayer walk in September, 2017. This group, led by Nick and Kimberly Maroluis, has met faithfully since then, every Thursday at 6 p.m. to pray -  rain or shine. “It actually started on a Wednesday night after the high school service,” Nick recalled. “My wife and her friend would walk the building while praying. When school let out for Christmas break, it became something our families, including all of our kids, would do together. Eventually, we moved it to Thursday evenings.”

“I heard about Nancy’s efforts and wanted to reach out to her so we didn’t confuse people by having two groups meeting for the same purpose, in the same place, at almost the same time,” said Nick. After an excited conversation, Nick and Nancy decided to combine forces.They were both blown away by the timing. “You can post and share and invite people all you want, but for something like this to have happened, only God moves like that,” Nick exclaimed.

The size of the prayer group expanded even more when they reached the Worship Team rehearsal room. “This smiling group of people knocked on the door and invited the entire worship team to come outside for a moment and join them in prayer,” said worship team member Michelle Alexander. “It was so humbling to be part of this huge group of people calling out to God together.”

Nancy described the evening agenda. “Beginning at the main entrance in the front, we walked to every door of the main building and The Rink, stopping at each entrance to pray specifically for the people and ministries who typically use that part of the building. At the front door, we prayed for the parking lot attendants, ushers and greeters, along with all of the people coming in, including visitors and current congregants.”

“As we go around, sometimes we actually see people engaging in their ministry and we will pray for them at that very moment without them even realizing,” Nick laughed. He described how the group does corporate prayer based on an overseas experience he had years ago. “In 2000, Kimberly and I went to Sierra Leone, West Africa on a mission trip. We fell in love with the way they would break into prayer. Everyone would pray out loud at the same time in whatever language they chose. So that is what we do! Someone in the group will say what and who we are praying for and then we all pray simultaneously for about a minute or two. Then, we walk to the next entrance. Sometimes we read scripture as well. One of the biggest things we have been feeling led to pray about are the changes at Northland, and for God’s work to be done. We are focused on God’s will, and for Christ’s church to be glorified. We pray for Northland to be aligned and united.”

While the group covered the property, the group prayed for the pastors, elders and staff, with a special emphasis on the technical team and worship leaders at the back door. They prayed for our many volunteers, children attending services in both the Early Childhood Wing and Grade School Worship Wing, LifeHope Care Center, Access Ministries, the Cooperative School and more. They even prayed for the nursing home that backs up to the playground behind the new LifeHope ChildCare Center.

As an encouragement to others to include their whole family in this ministry, Nick shared, “One really neat thing is seeing the growth in our own children who are praying with us. When we first started including them in the prayer walk, they were a little timid. At home, we always pray, but this was different from what we had been doing. Discipling our children is a big focus for us and it has been really encouraging to see them growing comfortable in their prayer walk.”

Nancy described another God-orchestrated touchpoint of the prayer walk that happened on Thursday, “There was a man who seems to have had a hard life. He was just walking past, so we invited him to pray with us. He joined in and was moved to tears. We asked his name and invited him to join us every Thursday. I think God knew that he needed that, simply to connect with people at that moment.”

Both Nick and Nancy share the goal of continuing and expanding the prayer walk group. They even created an official Thursday Prayer Walk Group on the Northland Group’s page.

“We called it the Thursday Prayer Walk Group because we hope other people will start other groups on each day of the week,” Nick explained. “Wouldn’t it be amazing for this place to be covered in prayer every single day of the week?”

If you would like to join the Thursday prayer walk group, there is an open-invitation. Even if you think, like Nancy, that this is way out of your comfort zone...just show up and see what God will do.