|Photo by bjearwicke|
Will you do this with me?
Will you go to your front door and look out at your neighborhood? Will you really look...reminding yourself that these neighbors are real people whom God has put in your life for a reason?
Do you know and believe to the depths of your soul that they are put in proximity to you so that you can bless them and be salt and light to them?
Do you really, really understand that you are commanded to love them as yourself, to serve them, to think of them before yourself?
I don't. But I should. And by God's grace, I'm learning to.
This is a radical, scary way of thinking for me. And yet...I'm beginning to be excited about it. Because this "Big God Story" that we're all a part of is a truly epic adventure, and though each one of us plays only a minor part, yet we can't know how the ramifications of a single act might have repercussions into eternity.
So lately I've committed to praying for my neighborhood. And since I tend to be a cerebral person (as in, "Head in the clouds and in books, and not much good in real life"), I've decided to go to my door and look out as I pray.
Why should I look out as I pray? To cement it in my soul that this is not theoretical. This is real. Those people. Yes, THOSE people. The ones who annoy me. The ones I know absolutely nothing about (and until recently, couldn't have cared less about). The ones who judge me. The ones I judge. The ones my kids play with. The ones I'm friendly with when life throws us together, but whose company I never seek out because I'm too wrapped up in my own world. The ones who belong to that religious group. The ones who pursue that lifestyle. The ones who party drunkenly and loudly until the wee hours. The ones I'm embarrassed to be around because I know our family hasn't been what it should be towards them. The ones I'm not sure would still consider me even a casual friend if I dared to share my faith with them.
Yes, those neighbors.
You have them, too.
Are you ready to pray for them, and for yourself as a part of this neighborhood?
Look out at them, and let's start.
"Our Father." Oh Lord, how many of these people truly know you as "Father?" May every one of them come to know you that way. And for those who do, may their childlike relationship grow in love with you more and more each day.
"Who art in Heaven." Thank You, Lord, that You are sovereign. There is nothing I could ask for this neighborhood that is beyond Your power.
"Hallowed be Your name." Oh Lord, may each person in this neighborhood come to hallow your name, to truly know who You are and stand in joyful awe before Your face every day.
(Are you looking? Are you trustingly praying for that neighbor, though your soul is tempted to doubt he could ever hallow The Name? Are you wondering if you've hallowed The Name in front of them?)
"Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done in this neighborhood, as it is in Heaven." Oh Lord, may your kingdom come in this neighborhood. May Your will be done here as it's done in Heaven (meaning that it will be done lovingly, trustingly, joyfully, obediently, happily).
(You know, of course, that by praying such things, you're asking to be used to help bring the Kingdom. And you need to know that the Kingdom never comes by way of Pharisaical rules, judgmentalism, pride, or ivory-tower living. The kingdom must be served by you...lovingly, trustingly, joyfully, obediently, happily...before it can come through you to your neighborhood. Are you ready to love...to love that neighbor? To serve that neighbor?)
"Give this neighborhood, today, its daily bread:"
- Its daily material needs (Matt. 6:25-32)
- Protection from excess (See Prov. 30:8-9)
- Daily kingdom work to do as You prepare hearts to do it (John 4:32-34)
- The daily supply of Jesus Himself by His Spirit (John 6:48-58)
"And forgive this neighborhood its debts, as we forgive our debtors." Lord, I forgive that neighbor. Please forgive me for having judged/held a grudge/(whatever it is in your case.) Please help me to seek restoration and/or to make restitution wherever possible where I have sinned against this neighbor that You have given me to love and serve. Help them to forgive me. Please transform our neighborhood into a place of genuine biblical love.
"And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil (or, as some translations suggest, "Deliver us from the Evil One"). Oh Lord, the enemy has plans for evil against every single person in the neighborhood, and he will redouble his efforts once I commit to serious prayer and intentional neighboring. Lord, deliver us from whatever evil he has in mind. Foil his plans, especially the plans that he has for tempting me to sin in response to other people's sins. My neighbors will sin against me, perhaps more now as the enemy incites them against me because I'm praying. He knows that, if I respond unlovingly and sinfully to my neighbor's sin, that I will do more harm to the Kingdom than my neighbor could ever do. Let me not be a traitor to Your kingdom. Teach me to love my neighbor.
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.
Will you commit to praying for your neighborhood regularly, at least once a week? Please let me know if you will.
(For more helpful blogs on this subject, please read this by Joe Thorn, and this by Tim Challies, and this from Ligonier Ministries.)