New neighbors moved in across the hallway in our condo building.
I know very little about them at the moment. I do know they are Jewish.
At least, that is my best guess based on the mezuzah that is on their door frame.
The mezuzah holds a small paper scroll with the words of the Shema prayer written on it in Hebrew.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.Deuteronomy 6:4-9, NRSV
Mezuzahs fulfill the command to keep the laws of God on the doorposts of homes.
I’ve seen family members touch it each time they walk into their house.
I doubt my first greeting with them will be to talk about Jesus.
But I can begin to pray for them before I have a chance to know them personally.
I can begin to pray that I would show the love of Christ through actions as well as my words.
How can you pray for your neighbors?
I know there are many different prayer strategies in personal evangelism (listen to this one), such as this one from Colossians 4:3-4
- “Lord, Open a door.”
- “Lord, open their heart.”
- “Lord, open my mouth.”
When I last got new neighbors in 2011, I used this list to shape my prayer for my new neighbors. We are praying along these lines:
- That we’d find common ground with our new neighbors
- That we’d build a genuine and authentic relationship.
- That we’d be part of God’s work in bringing them to Christ.
- That if they don’t have a church, that they would become part of ours.
- That we’d get to invite them to our church.
- That God would draw them to Jesus if that hasn’t happened yet.
Due to the course of life events in both our families, we moved and they moved before we ever had a meal together.
As I step into a new seasons of praying for new neighbors, here are five ideas that are fueling me.
1. Pray for passion to share the good news
I’m reminded of the Apostle Paul’s driving passion to share the good news, as spelled out in 1 Corinthians 9:16-23.
For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make full use of my rights as a preacher of the gospel.
Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law),so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
2. Pray that God would give you divine appointments
Earlier in the Corinthian letter, Paul wrote:
What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. (1 Corinthians 3:5)
Paul reminded the Corinthians about how they made their journey to faith over time through various conversational encounters.
Each of those conversational encounters was a divine appointment, those sacred promptings from the Holy Spirit to set up a moment that will impact someone’s life in their journey to faith. I want to give you examples of how this can play out in real life.
- God’s presence is with us. – My tutor hears the gospel
- Misdialed Telephone number – a wrong phone number
- Is he a PC USA Pastor? – A divine moment in Cracker Barrell
- What is an Evangelist? – Student wants a definition
- Evangelism Motives: Why bother? – taxi driver shares Jesus
Pray for more divine appointments with your neighbor.
3. Pray that God will keep those neighbors before you
Your neighbors are not just a nameless class of irreligious people.
They are not simply “the unsaved.” Rather, they are individuals with names, stories, hopes, dreams. They are people that you can grow to love and serve.
You could pray that seeing your neighbors will become a trigger that will prompt you to pray:
Lord use me to share the love of Christ with them.
Lord, use me to invite them to church.
Lord, let me listen to hear their spiritual thirst.
Pray that God would give you the opportunity to invite someone to church this coming weekend.
4. Pray that you’ll receive the Father’s heart of love
It is easy to get annoyed with your neighbors when they won’t cut their tree limbs back, or when their dog continues to do its business in your yard.
It is easy to ignore your neighbor if you never interact with them.
It is easy to forget about their spiritual condition once you have spent a good amount of time with them.
Instead of letting business as usual develop, ask the Lord to give you His heart of love for those who don’t know him.
Ask regularly, ask plainly, and ask with great passion.
Ask the Lord for that same compassion Jesus felt that day outside of Jerusalem.
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:36-38)
5. Pray that you’ll discern their spiritual thirst.
As you pray regularly for your neighbor, you’ll begin to see what the Spirit of God is doing in their life.
You’ll begin to see their spiritual thirst.
Recently, I went on a charter fishing expedition. The captain looked for clues as we drove to the fishing spots – birds feeding on baitfish. The birds showed the captain where the small baitfish were swimming near the surface and that was the clue to the likely presence of the bigger fish we would catch.
Spiritual thirst is that clue that will begin to give you a hint of the spiritual hunger that is just below the surface.
In the way I teach personal evangelism, this thirst is what God uses to draw people to himself. Jesus said:
“If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.” (John 7:37b)
Jesus plainly taught that if anyone wants a relationship with God, it can be obtained.
But notice that this claim to a relationship is specifically addressed only to those who are spiritually thirsty.
Pray that you’ll begin to see it.
I pray for my neighbors. Will you pray for yours?
Here is the coaching corner.
Are you praying regularly for your neighbors?
Maybe it is time to make a prayer list of every neighbor in your apartment building, condo complex, street, or cul-de-sac.
Write down their names and set apart time in your devotional times to pray for them.