BROOKSVILLE — Shortly after he and his wife, Cynthia, began Proceeding Word Ministries in 2003, Faith Jackson began walking the streets of south Brooksville and praying for the hurting people he saw.
"What I began to see disturbed my heart," the pastor said. "A lot of rejection, a lot of pain, a lot of hurting people that were basically looking for answers."
Jackson was moved to compassion as he observed drug deals, prostitution and a lot of anger in young men and women being played out.
"That's what people do when they're desperate and their backs are against the wall. They do desperate things," he said. "We had a burning desire to see change in our community."
The Jacksons and other folks who were involved in the early days of the ministry decided that fervent prayer could be the catalyst for change.
By early 2007, Jackson's "prayer walk" had become a regular monthly event, with eight to 10 members of the church's evangelization and intercessory prayer teams joining him on his walks throughout Brooksville.
Jackson also began to personally spend time praying about students and has volunteered his time helping with school lunches and in coaching basketball and football. In doing so, he hopes to be a good male role model to children.
"I didn't really know much about it," said Jackson, 42. "But I got in touch with this book about spiritual mapping (Breaking Strongholds in Your City, by C. Peter Wagner). As you're walking, you're feeling the environment."
Jackson began to write down what he was seeing and where he was seeing it.
"There are different strongholds that are over different sections of our community," he explained. "There's a scripture that says we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities, spiritual wickedness in high places. Those principalities are all over the city."
Jackson said it is much like preparing to fight a war.
"You've got to know who you're fighting against. We know it's the enemy, Satan, but he has demonic principalities that are working for him. That's what spiritual mapping is — finding out what is the stronghold for each section."
Jackson said one of the main strongholds in south Brooksville is the addiction to drugs.
"Another big stronghold over Hernando County is the spirit of racism," he said. "A lot of it's undercover, but God sees it. It hurts his heart, and whatever hurts God's heart should hurt our hearts.
"How do we get it changed? By prayer, fasting, seeking the face of God."
Before the group heads out each month, members spend time in prayer at their church on N Broad Street, seeking to know God's will as to where they should walk.
"When we get to our location, we'll begin to pray out loud. It's called 'decree and declare.' We're decreeing the heart of God, whatever God is saying to say, we say it … so we're binding some things like hate and anything that's unlawful, and then we loose anything that's lawful from the kingdom because God wants us to bring heaven to earth."
Sometimes the group walks around the government buildings downtown.
"We know that's where strategies are made," Jackson said. "As we're praying, we're asking that the Lord's will be done and that his government will come so there will be righteousness, peace and joy."
Prayers said in communities are said for families.
"We're praying for unity, for families, to see the hearts of fathers turn to children. To me, that's the key to everything being put back in its right place — fathers being fathers, husbands being husbands."
With school just starting, this month's prayer walk began at the School Board office.
"We were out front praying for administrators, teachers, the families … that this will be a successful year," Jackson said.
John Roy, an elder in the church who oversees the evangelism team, joins in the walk each month.
"Prayer walking to me says we care," Roy said. "We care about the things God cares about, and that is anything pertaining to what he has created."
A former drug user, Roy says he knows the value of prayer.
"I have been on both sides, and I know what God can do. Someone prayed for me … and those prayers have and are coming to pass," he said.
To Jackson, the ministry imitates the efforts of Jesus Christ.
"Those in the body of Christ, who are filled with Christ, need to do the same thing Christ did," he said. "He went out doing good. He had compassion on people when he saw how they were hurting and were without a shepherd. His heart was grieved."
Jackson said if those on the prayer walks do their part in praying, God will do his part in answering.
"We have our own agendas and our own perspective, so we've lost the perspective of God," he said. "But if we can come together, not having a black church or white church, but only one church, and we really seek the face of God, he says he will heal our land.
"I choose to believe that."