I confess I often feel like a failure.
I don’t pray for my neighbors or my community very often at all. I barely keep up with prayers for my own family and friends.
When I think about my neighborhood, my community, I make assumptions based on what I see others doing.
I know women who love to cook and enjoy the adventure of inviting friends and strangers into their homes for a meal. I’ve read blog posts and books with stories of shared community, of welcoming orphans and widows and refugees. And I feel guilty that I have not done the same.
Telling myself I should try harder to do the things they do because they appear more Christlike than me usually just leads to personal discouragement.
Why? Because I often forget God called me to follow Him—not to follow others.
And while He may in fact want me to be challenged by someone else’s strengths, His real desire is for me to be who He made me to be and to listen to Him above anyone else.
He wants me to trust His timing in my life.
When my children were little and I was much more homebound I knew our neighbors, shared stories as our kids played, and borrowed eggs and sugar from one another when we were out.
When my children were in school, I went to school with them, not literally, but I was present often. I worked with the PTA, volunteered on projects, taught Bible studies with our kids and their friends. Being present meant I knew their teachers, the staff, and the other students at school. I was doing community.
But in this present empty-nest season, without my kids to pull me into the neighborhood and beyond, it’s much easier to be isolated.
Thankfully, God has also called me to a husband who is “Roadrunner,” the affectionate nickname given him by his mother. Traveling has been part of my life since the moment I uttered, “I do.” God did not call me to marry a farmer who must remain tied to his land for its flourishing and his family’s survival. Neither did He call me to marry a pastor who is more tied to a local community for his parishioner’s growth.
God’s plan for me is beautifully individual. It’s been a long road learning to rest in that uniqueness.
One of the most startling statements to me of all that Jesus said while on earth is His often-repeated declaration, “I do nothing on My own initiative.” He listened to His Father’s directives and obeyed.
As a result Jesus didn’t heal every disease. He didn’t feed every starving child. I’m learning I can’t do it all and God doesn’t want me to. Listening to His specific leading for me is His will.
Gratefully when asked by His disciples, “Lord, teach us to pray,” Jesus did not give a long list of rules. Neither did He tell His followers to be like the religious leaders who He referred to as hypocrites … ouch … who prayed publicly, aloud, in order to be seen and admired by many. These public pray-ers used lots of important sounding words intended to make the ordinary folks feel inferior.
Instead, Jesus replied with a very simple prayer that we can both repeat and use as a model for praying in our own words.
“Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.”
This has become my prayer for my neighborhood and community. I don’t know the needs to mention by name, but He knows. And as I pray, He wants me to listen for His whisper to:
- call my neighbor.
- pray for the person checking me out at the grocery story.
- engage in conversation with my seat mate on the airplane.
- encourage the woman who cleans our hotel room.
Being led by His Spirit is the key to healing in all relationships starting in our homes and then outward to the world. It is how His kingdom will be tasted on earth.