“Neighbourhood Watch”

[Our area has been] scourged with theft, break-ins and a general feeling of fear and apprehension.”

on holiday and was spending my days with the anxiety of returning to my house and finding it broken in.”

we were broken into in January and had our car stolen”

Still have nightmares after I woke up one night to find one of them beside my bed robbing me. I wear hearing aids…

“Lived in this area for a while and it never has been like this…”

started taunting them and calling them names. One boy then pushed my son onto the road”

“he’s just a drunken piece of scum”

“…quite a huge part of the society is ‘disgusted’ by beggars so waiting for the society to take care of homeless/elderly/sick is naive.”

These are just a few of the comments on Nextdoor, the community group page I am a part that exists for the purpose of connecting those living in our specific part of Edinburgh.

The concern, even fear, expressed in these comments is very real lately. I wouldn’t say I feel unsafe. Having spent a good few years of life visiting and doing ministry in American cities like Chicago, Queens, Brooklyn, LA, the rise in crime and “unsociable behaviour” in my little community doesn’t frighten me as much as makes me deeply sad.

So, it’s time to start prayer walking. As other Nextdoor on-line community members talk about the need to become more “aware, vigilant, watchful” I hear this as a call to prayer.

“I’ve posted watchmen on your walls… Day and night they keep at it, praying, calling out, reminding God to remember. They are to give him no peace until he does what he said…” Isaiah 62:6-7 The Message

But as I was reflecting on my resolve to begin prayer walking at least one evening a week, I felt challenged by God around our tendency to pray in response to crisis or negative events after they have happened, rather than committing to pray for the flourishing of our communities whether anything negative is happening or not.
I asked myself if it would even cross my mind to prayer walk if I lived somewhere peaceful, perhaps affluent, where on the surface at least all seemed well? Perhaps not. Yet, even somewhere so seemingly perfect, is there not still pain, sickness, broken hearts, a different kind of fear and oppression? Is there not still people who Jesus longs to have relationship with?

So is my new resolve to prayer walk my community partly selfish, a spiritual guise for looking out for my own sense of safety and well-being? I’m not sure. Maybe it’s just what I needed to drive me out the comfort of my own four walls and begin caring for the well-being of my community, to begin actively calling for God’s kingdom to be established in the land and in the people amongst whom I live, that it would be said of Gilmerton:

Old men and old women will come back… sit on benches on the streets and spin tales, move around safely with their canes — a good city to grow old in. And boys and girls will fill the public parks, laughing and playing — a good city to grow up in.” Zechariah 8:4-5 The Message

For tips on prayer walking your community, check out the 24-7 Prayer website here.

Crystal Cryer originally hails from Oregon, but now claims Scotland as home. She is the National Coordinator for 24-7 Prayer Scotland. She is also a Networker for Prayer Spaces in Schools in Scotland and is part of the Discovery family in Dunbar, where she is based.