When Jesus saw the crowds, his heart broke. Matthew 9:36 reads
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
He had compassion on them.
To put it another way, he felt compassion for them.
I can imagine the heart of Christ that day on that hillside – pondering the injustice, the poverty, the lostness, the brokenness, the misery of human need, and their separation from God.
But also seeing not just a plural collective “them” but individuals with names, dreams, and families.
I can imagine the compassionate emotions swirling like in His heart like the foamy rapids of a river .
He felt it.
So I wonder: are my prayers for those without Christ dry recitals of empty words?
Or do I feel the complex mix of compassionate emotions that Jesus felt that day?
How to see what Jesus saw: Walk and Pray
- Walked the streets of Barquisimeto and Merida (Venezuela),
- Stood on street corners in zone 1 and smelled the landfill of zone 3 of Guatemala City (Guatemala),
- Walked with friends among in slums of Matagalpa and Managua (Nicaragua),
- Walked the streets surrounded by glimmering skyscrapers of Panama City (Panama),
- Walked around suburbs of San Jose (Costa Rica).
I’ve walked the nice suburbs as well as nice suburban Richmond Virginia, Deerfield Illinois, plus some not-so-nice areas of Richmond.
I walk and I pray for the location of where I am that day.
Other times, I just simply pick a vantage point from where I can look out over the city where I live and just pray.
What happens when you pray for where you live and minister?
Sometimes my heart breaks with the compassion that might have been similar to what Jesus felt.
I imagine the crowds that steel skyscrapers and slum shacks on a muddy hillside represent – individuals who need Christ.
My heart breaks at times.
- the poor who try to make a living in a gang infested neighborhood where they might be killed by accident,
- the laborers who work for minimum wage in dangerous unsafe occupations,
- the injustices committed underhandedly,
- the extortion and bribery that gets things done,
- the pickpockets who steal just to get some food.
Not just for the collective crowd, but individuals.
I think of the toothless amputee, with swollen knobby fingers on his remaining hand. He stopped me at a traffic intersection. He used his teeth to hold the clean styro-foam cup while he maneuvered his one-legged body on crutches next to my car. His swollen hand stuck that cup in my car window, begging for a donation of some kind.
I give him what I have, but drive away in tears. I wish I could do more to help.
I remember the orphan who’s parents were murdered, and who had been a victim of human trafficking.
I remember the 7 year old who murdered a shop keeper.
I remember the first hand stories of gang rape and sexual abuse.
I remember seeing people eat with bare hands out of dumpsters and torn trash bags behind restaurants.
Feel the heart of God
I weep over my city. I feel for my city. I’ve seen brokenness that I wish I had never seen.
I sometimes spontaneously pray in desperation, “Lord send me to reach them. Send me.”
I touch the heart of God.
The heart of evangelism is to connect with the heart of God.
Ask the Lord to share His heart for the city / town / rural area in which you live.
Ask the Lord to grow your sensitivity to His compassion.
Lord, allow me to feel what Jesus felt for people that day.
I don’t want my prayers to be simple useless words from an unmoved heart.
I’m sorry for when I turn a blind eye to the crowds.
Today, I as go about my life, help me to discover Your compassion for those who are without you, and for the injustices that exist where I live.
Allow me to feel Your compassion like I haven’t felt it before.
If you don’t have a physical vantage point or place to see your city or region, find an aerial image of it on-line. Make it the screen desktop on your computer.
Or print it out and place it in your devotional reading as a representation of the crowds where you live.
Let this image serve as a reminder to pray for where you live.
Be sure to grab the RSS feed (via one of the buttons above, or the text below) to get the next day’s guide.