Summary: How do we pray for those who live near us?
Do you remember last summer’s amazing rescue of the nine miners trapped in the Quecreek mine in Pennsylvania? I remember staying up into the early morning hours and watching as they were hauled out of the darkness to safety one-by-one. But the rescue was anything but easy. A drill bit broke in the rescue shaft they had started to drill. They couldn’t get the broken pieces out so after a new one was flown in they had to start another shaft. Communications ceased with the minders for a while and the miners themselves almost gave up and wrote notes to their loved ones.
Thinking of all the energy and effort that went into this feat. Watching the celebration of those who had labored for days on end. I couldn’t help but wonder why such an effort doesn’t seem to be extended to those who are trapped here in North Portland. Trapped in lifestyles that are addictive or abusive. Trapped in a sense of hopelessness. Trapped in habits that degrade themselves and others. Trapped in selfishness and greed. Trapped in what the Bible calls sin. When you drive home realize that literally thousands of homes all around us are in danger of drowning and are loss in darkness. And most don’t even have a clue to what they are facing.
It seems the last few decades that the Body of Christ has come to believe that the answer to the “sin” in the world is a stronger military. The answer to the “darkness” in our nation is legislating prayer in school. Or that the secret to those lost in our city is found in the ballot box. But that’s not the answer and it never will be. Our security won’t come with a new Iraq or even with the sudden end of radical Islamic beliefs. The answer to the morals, individual and corporate, in our nation won’t be found with stiff penalties for those who rob others. The answer for our community isn’t in a police chief with more diversity. No! The answer to these issues and the millions of other dark things we face is found when the people of God, the Church, get on their knees. We will only perceive God’s answers as we actively work at the tasks that God’s work calls us to do.
Let me be very plain. The changes we want to see happen are only going to happen when our neighbors are introduced to Jesus and accept that Christ’s Love has the power to transform them. And for the most part we’ve been hesitant to tell others about this love because we either don’t know what to say, we’re afraid of what they may think about us, or we don’t have anything to share because we don’t really know who Jesus is.
God’s word is clear that he wishes that everyone would be saved. Now some have taken this out of context and assumed that this means everyone, (Hitler the hijackers on 9/11, the sexual predator who lives in the halfway house down the street even those republican senators) will be saved. But God is not going to magically snap his finger and all our friends instantly get a free pass to heaven while those we don’t like get the shaft. No! God’s work is to make available to everyone the opportunity to either accept or reject his love for him or her. That’s the point of Jesus coming, to make this love available.
And our task is to tell the world about this opportunity. Now this is really great news because I’m not talking about rocket science here so don’t make telling others too complicated. It’s not about memorizing a whole bunch of answers, setting up revival tents and having big name preachers come to town. It’s about telling others about the depth of our relationship with Jesus. It’s about the importance of Christ to us. It is about our being so grateful, relieved, joyful, overwhelmed, and awestruck, by what Jesus did for us (dying when we deserved it) that we have to let others know.
Paul rediscovered the need to keep it simple when he came to Corinth from Athens. In Athens (cf. Acts 17) he tried to meet the intellectual people on their own terms and the result was less than great. Some believed but many mocked him and others just politely put him off. Now in Corinth he once again gets back to basics and tells them that Jesus’ death is the centerpiece to his message. Andrew becomes so excited at who Jesus is that he goes and fetches Peter. And Philip does the same thing the next day. They realized that Jesus was something special and they didn’t want to risk having those closest to them miss out.
Here are three steps for preparing ourselves to reach our neighbors. They all involve prayer. In fact, the first step in each of these is to ask God to change us not the world around us.