Tuesday, November 26, 2013

what helps me pray.

My feet hit the edge of the driveway and my pace quickens, inhaling cold air. My breathing steadies, matching the rhythm of my feet. I turn right and look at the house next to me as I jog past. Over the past few months I have come to be familiar with its shape, the driveway, the trees that line it...

I look to my left to the house flanking the opposite side of the street, now familiar to me as well. I continue through the neighborhood in similar fashion...taking note of every detail. The gravel patches, dips and bends, hills and cul-de-sachs. I take in familiar sounds... dogs barking, children laughing, old men muttering under their breath... the hum of leaf blowers and lawn mowers. I catalogue these visual and audible cues...placing them with their origin in my mind. I draw a picture in my minds eye... a blueprint of the area, a framework, which I add to with each new day. I list what I know about my neighbors with the things that remind me of them.

Then I pray for them, one by one.

The shy old lady to the right, check. The bachelor on the left with the BMW and girlfriend, check. the family with the angry rottweiler and soft spoken mom, check. The old man with the walker and golden retriever, check. The house that looks abandon save for the black smoke curling out of the chimney and the glow of a flatscreen, check.

Then there is the family with two teenage boys and chainlink fence, the mom with twins and the artist with lymes disease. The family behind us with two toddlers, and the one down the street with a little girl. I jog past the church in the center of the neighborhood and pray for the congregation. Past the middleschool and highschool and pray for the administration.

I continually have to rein in my thoughts, to focus my mind on prayer... it wanders so easily, but I have a job to do. I asked God to give me a heart for my neighborhood, to help me to love them more and this was His response, "If you want to love them, pray for them."

And so I pray for them every day, and I care about them more than I thought possible, considering many of them are still strangers to me. God reminds me to lift them up in prayer as I go throughout my day, through the cues all around me. When I am loading my kiddos in the car and I hear the roar of the chainsaw from the next yard over... I pray for them. When I hear the voices of little people from the other side of the trees out back... I pray for them. When I see the old lady in her yard as I drive past... I pray for her.

It works for me. It's quick and easy, and has produced so much fruit in my life. As an introvert who would be so content to spend every day, all day at home, and only invite over the same few friends for the occasional meal or cup of coffee, this gets me thinking about others, and allows room for God to work in my heart. It also gives me the sense of connection I need to actually reach out and introduce myself to the people around me. I want to know them now.

That is what I love about the Lord... when we ask Him for something, He answers. He builds bridges where there were none, and makes strangers into friends...

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