The Most Dangerous Prayer: Asking God to Help You Meet Your Neighbors
“Father God, we have no idea what we’re doing. Will you help us to know and love our neighbors?”
That was our simple, and—if I can be honest—faithless, prayer. My wife and I had just begun to be convicted that though we were a pastor’s family, worked at church, and were involved in lots of “churchy” stuff, we were having zero positive impact on our neighborhood. We found ourselves asking the question, “If we moved away today, would anyone miss us? Would they even notice?”
So we began praying this simple prayer. We asked God to help us to meet our neighbors and know how to love them.
In truth, we didn’t really expect anything to happen. It honestly just made us feel better that at least we were praying. Little did we know that everything was about to change.
Within 48 hours of praying for God to help us to meet our neighbors and to know how to love them, God showed up in a big way!
Arriving home from the grocery store with our 2-year-old and 2-week-old sons, I began to take bags out of the trunk as Sara unstrapped our newborn from his car seat. Suddenly the unexpected shout of “Hey! Can I hold the baby?” rang out from the street in front of our house. I looked up to find “the old lady” from across the street—someone I’d waved to before but never interacted with—coming to greet us. She came up into our driveway and held out her arms with an expectant face. Now, it’s important to understand that in the three years we’d lived in our neighborhood, we’d never had a conversation with one of our neighbors. We’d never invited anyone over or even chatted in the street. And now one of our neighbors was coming to us.
Really, God? Is this what You’re going to do? Just bring our neighbors to us?
She introduced herself as Scarlett, accepted our newborn, and began to cradle him in her arms. Between her cooing and baby-talk she started sharing her story with us.
Really, God? You’re going to have our neighbors just walk onto my property and begin sharing their story?
She described to us her experience of living in the neighborhood for years. She talked about having an estranged relationship with her daughter and granddaughter and the loneliness it had caused her over the past decade. She even began to share with us that she had just returned from her doctor’s appointment and had sent off a biopsy of a suspicious spot on her shoulder. Suddenly she broke into tears as she lamented her great fear of the results she would be receiving in a few days. However, more than her fear of a possible cancer diagnosis, she described to us her sadness that there was no one in her life to share the news. She had decided to go tell “the nice-looking couple across the street” because she simply had no other choice.
Really, God? You’re going to have our neighbors introduce themselves and share the biggest and hardest thing going on in their life with us? Just like that?
Now, with all of my natural introversion, even I could walk through this wide-open door that God had made.
“Scarlett,” I said, “I’d like to pray for you. Would that be okay?”
Scarlett’s face lit up and we immediately, on her prompting, joined hands in our driveway and began praying for her. We prayed for God’s peace in her life, for community, and for complete healing from whatever might be afflicting her body.
As we prayed I looked down and noticed my 2-year-old son with his hands folded. It was in that moment that I saw a vision of our future. A future characterized by loving where we were by following God’s leading to know and love our neighbors. A future where our children could grow up in a home where the normal activity was to help those in need, to pray for those who were sick, and to seek to bless those around us in the name of Jesus.
Simple, right? Incredibly.
Scary, right? Absolutely.
Our lives have been ever changed and enriched since. God has been immensely gracious in His answer of our continued simple prayer of “Will you help us to know and love our neighbors?” Scarlett’s story was but the first of a whole new way of living—a simple Gospel-centered focus to put ourselves in the hands of God and the place in which He had planted us.
Would you dare to begin praying this dangerous prayer? Will you and your family begin to ask God to help you to know your neighbors and how to love them?
If so, hang on tight. It’s going to be a very great adventure indeed!