Praying for your block
Bringing “God Bless America” down to the block level
Literal problems in Mt. 25.35-36
and their figurative equivalents
Hungry = hungry for life; depressed
Thirsty = thirsty for refreshment; tired, bored
Stranger = lonely
Naked = ashamed; hiding
Sick = suffering pain or anxiety
Prisoner = addicted; victimized
Because of real estate costs, our neighbors are usually economic peers, which means they don’t come to mind when we read Mt. 25, “I was hungry, and you fed me, etc.” We apply that to other poorer neighborhoods or countries.
However, if we think of emotional and psychological needs that parallel the physical ones mentioned in Mt. 25, then we discover a new way of seeing not just the poor across town but our own neighbors. They are Christ in disguise and in need! Once we get that idea, it comes naturally to pray for them and to do things with them that we would do with Christ if he lived on our block and had these needs (which he never would in real life, but he was never sick or in prison either).
For the depressed, we give them purpose, meaning, and an opportunity to contribute
For the tired and bored, we provide a deep, calming, "feel good" effect
For the lonely, we notice and include them
For those who are hiding, we help them open up, and we accept them as they are
For those with high pain or anxiety levels, we pray for them and spend time with them
For those addicted or victimized, we listen, empathize, and come alongside
This is not rocket science. It simply adds up to loving our neighbors, using Mt. 25 as a guide and Jesus himself as our motivation.
This kind of prayer and action is especially important as we look at rising national rates of sleep disorders, depression, opioid addiction, divorce, teen suicide, etc.—North American problems that should not be epidemics in a country that God is blessing. If we apply the national statistics to our block, it “brings the problem home”. We realize that some of those things have to be there on our block, even though people have been successfully hiding them.
Since we won’t initially know which neighbor is feeling which need, we pray for them all, and we pray that God will reveal which neighbors and which needs he wants us to get involved with at any particular time. In those involvements, guided and empowered by the Spirit, we get to “serve Christ” by serving neighbors. The pain level on our block goes down, and the praise to God gets louder.
Of the six categories in the table, the “stranger” and the “naked” are probably the two problems most acutely felt in North America today, so our prime actions toward neighbors should be to notice them and accept them non-judgmentally. The North American church is colossally failing at both those things. Pray for change! And if those two problems aren’t the biggest ones on your block, listen to God about which other problem(s) to start with. God bless America, one block at a time!