Praying for those around you
Bringing “God Bless America” down to the block level
Pray that on Judgment Day, Jesus will say this about you because your neighbors are saying it
My life was empty and you gave me a reason to get up in the morning.
I was worn out and you refreshed me.
I didn't belong and you included me.
I was afraid of being judged and you accepted me.
I was sick and you cared about me.
I couldn't get out, and you came and sat down with me.
(This prayer is a paraphrase of Matthew 25.35-36, "I was hungry and you fed me, etc.")
"My neighbors aren't poor"
Because of real estate costs, our neighbors are usually economic peers, which means they don’t come to mind when we read Matthew 25, “I was hungry, and you fed me, etc.” We apply that to other poorer neighborhoods or countries.
However, if we think of emotional, psychological, and personal needs that parallel the physical ones mentioned in Mt. 25, then we discover that our neighbors are “poor” too. They are living impoverished lives.
Hungry = hungry for life; running on empty
Thirsty = thirsty for refreshment; tired, bored
Stranger = afraid of missing out; lonely
Naked = ashamed; hiding; pretending all is well
Sick = suffering pain or anxiety
Prisoner = addicted; victimized; shut in
Once we get that idea, it comes naturally to see that our neighbors are Christ in disguise and in need! We pray for them in a new way.
This kind of prayer is especially important as we look at rising national rates of sleep disorders, anxiety, depression, opioid addiction, divorce, teen suicide, etc.—North American problems that should not be epidemics in a country that God is blessing. Statistically, some of those problems have to be right here on our block even if our neighbors have been successfully hiding them. Since we won’t initially know which neighbor is feeling which need, we pray for them all.
We also put feet to our prayers. The Spirit guides and empowers us to get involved with certain neighbors at any particular time.
For those feeling empty or bored, we give them purpose, meaning, and an opportunity to contribute
For the worn out, we help them out by sharing their load and being positive
For those who feel like losers or outsiders, we notice them and include them
For those who are hiding, we accept them as they are and give them safety to open up
For those with high pain or anxiety levels, we pray for them and do what we can
For those addicted, victimized, or shut in, 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. We get to “serve Christ” by serving the neighbors. Then the pain level on our block goes down, and the praise to God gets louder.
Of the six problems in the list, the “stranger” (losers, outsiders) and the “naked” (fear of being judged) are probably the two problems most acutely felt in North America today, so our top priority actions toward neighbors may be to include them in our lives 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!