Today we’ll continue with the plan to expand our prayer circle to include our neighbors and our nation. One day, Jesus encountered an expert in the law of Moses, who had actually been listening carefully to the things Jesus had been teaching. The man asked Jesus what he needed to do to inherit (earn/deserve) eternal life. Jesus asked this man, “What is written in the law…How do you read it?” What is amazing is that the man then quotes the answer that Jesus gave to another person who asked Him to identify the most important commandment in the law. This man says to Jesus “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” Jesus replies to the man, “Do this, and you will live.” The man wasn’t happy with that answer because he wanted to be sure to draw a line in the sand so he could measure his obedience and ask, “Who is my neighbor?”

We all do this. We all want to know the boundaries of what is expected of us. Have you ever been asked to go in on a group gift for someone? If you have, you know that the first question you ask is, “how much do I need to contribute?” The worst answer we can receive in asking that question is this: “Whatever you are comfortable giving.” UGH! We want a dollar amount. If it is too high, we might decline. If it is just right, we are happy to help. Leaving it open-ended leaves us wondering, “how much is this really going to cost me?”

This man wanted to draw a box he could stay inside of, but Jesus had another plan. You can read Jesus’ reply to him in Luke 10:30-37.

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Luke 10:30-37 (NIV)

The man wanted to identify his neighborhood, and Jesus didn’t limit it to him to a geographical region, social class, racial-ethnic, or even a religious group. Instead, Jesus essentially was letting this man know that it isn’t about finding a neighbor to love but being a loving neighbor to whomever you find. When you are a follower of Jesus, your neighborhood travels with you.

That is a pretty expansive list of neighbors. So how do we pray for our neighbors? We start with those closest to us. Look up and down your street. Do you know your neighbors? It might be a good start to get to know them. And quit making excuses. I know, I know, you have lived on the street for years and haven’t bothered to meet your neighbors. Won’t it be awkward if you do so now? YES! Only slightly less awkward than continuing to be aloof.

Even if you don’t know your neighbors by name, you can begin praying for them anyway. God knows their name. He’d probably go an introduce Himself if He lived on your street (how’s that guilt trip feeling?). Pray for them. Pray the Lord’s prayer over them and for them. If you know them, ask them how they are doing, and over time you can tell them that they are in your prayers. Again, nobody hates hearing that. If you do pray for something specific that they mention, be sure to follow-up.

It is great to pray for those who live in our geographical neighbors but what about those that come into our mobile neighborhood as we go throughout our day? I would encourage you to pray for those you work with; Your fellow students and teachers/professors if you are in school; People in your clubs, sports teams, or organizations. Pray for the person in front of you in line at the store or fast food place. Better yet, pray for the person stuck behind you! Pray for strangers and those that just seems strange. You might be surprised to see who God may bring into your path.

Within this newly expanded circle, we also want to talk about praying for our community, state, and nation. More on that tomorrow. You have enough to get praying for today! 🙂