PRAY FOR YOUR NEIGHBOR
1 Timothy 2:1–8
This time of year brings an unofficial holiday you may not have on your calendar. Each year, the first Tuesday of August is National Night Out. Designed to promote good relations between neighbors and law enforcement, this fun event began almost 40 years ago. Those who participate usually fill their streets with the smell of cookouts, laughter and games. It is a way to promote solidarity and fellowship among neighbors. Sharing a meal and polite conversations with your neighbors is beneficial, but we will see this week there is something even greater we can do for them.
We are to pray for our neighbors. (1–4)
Sometimes neighbors may borrow from each other, but when we lift them up in prayer we are bestowing upon them something of the highest value. When we pray for others, we are intentionally and submissively placing ourselves, our hopes and our desires at the feet of Jesus. In the opening verse Paul notes the distinction between four different varieties of prayers. There are petitions (need based), prayers (conversation with God), intercession (prayer for others) and thanksgiving (expressing gratitude to God).
When we pray for others, we are loving them in an expressive way that goes deeper than a superficial relationship. We may think we are good neighbors if we know the names and occupations of those sharing a street with us, or even better, if we give them a gift at Christmas. As Christians we can and should represent Christ better than that.
We are to pray that our neighbors recognize Jesus is the only way to salvation. (5–6)
The key to praying for your neighbors is in the building of relationships. My backyard is enclosed with a privacy fence 8 feet in height. It is good to have at times, but it could also be a hindrance if I do not care for those on the other side. Many times your home is a place to hide from the stress and cares of your job or the world. We all need a place of rest and solitude but we cannot isolate constantly. As I strive to know and care for my neighbors, God will give me wonderful opportunities to share and show my faith. The COVID-19 pandemic taught us we are in a connected society, and we share society with countless others.
We are to pray with the right attitude. (7–8)
I have heard it said that sometimes a person’s mind drifts during prayer. Do not feel bad about this. God knows your heart. Let me suggest a prayer exercise. Before you pray, jot down on note cards or a piece of paper things you wish to express in your prayer. Then pray with your eyes open (no, there is nothing wrong with open-eyed prayers) and work your way through the list. Do not make it a checklist per se or something that makes you rigid, but use it as a guide. You can use this same list to later see how God responded to your requests.
For me personally there is nothing I want to do more of, understand less and need constantly than prayer. Make the time for prayer to be a priority in your life. When you are praying be honest, be open and most of all be ready to listen. You are talking to your Best Friend. Spend time catching up with Him today.
By Bobby McKay
Pastor of Pleasant Grove Baptist Church in Brookhaven, Mississippi