If you wrote down everything you prayed for in the past two weeks, do you think both weeks would look similar? I imagine there would be a few duplicates: prayer for family, friends, and things mentioned at the church prayer meeting; safety for travel and perhaps a few mentions of the wider Christian world. Often, we pray the same prayers, day in day out. It isn’t a bad thing, praying the same thing. But, I’m wondering how often do we break away from habitual prayers and pray for people that we don’t even think about? How often do we intentionally shake up our prayer life? How about starting with those close by – our neighbours.
We are explicitly told by Jesus to love our neighbours. When he was asked ‘who is my neighbour?’ Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan that – in a nutshell – challenges us to love those that you wouldn’t normally show compassion to.
It is hard to break a habit, or to start a new one, you almost need a defining end or deliberate beginning to mark a determined act of change. An ideal initiative to push us out of our comfortable prayer habits and initiate something new is the National Prayer Weekend. This weekend, Christians, churches, prayer groups, Christian Unions, individuals – whoever believes prayer is powerful – are promising to reach out to their local communities with prayer.
The challenge is to not just pray for the neighbours we know but to be a little bit ‘good-Samaritan’ about it and cross the road into unknown territory to reach new people. Here are three examples of people we don’t normally pray for.
1. The easily forgotten people
There are so many lonely people close by that we don’t even know about. ‘A third of all over 75s usually spend more than 12 hours a day on their own every day. One in 10 of the over 75s say they feel “intensely lonely all of the time.”[Source: Evangelical Alliance. To read more on loneliness in the UK, head here.] Imagine the incredible difference your prayers could make for someone living on their own.
2. The hard to pray for people
Whether this is someone who annoys you, someone who you need to forgive or maybe a figure in society who you find difficult to respect. I’m sure we can all think of a few people that we don’t get on with, stop focusing on why you don’t like them and start offering them up to God.
3. The people we take for granted
I wonder how many times traffic wardens, train ticket inspectors or accountants get prayed for? How about counteracting the anger from annoyed commuters on the train by praying for the train driver. Or covering the bank cashiers in prayer as everyone else sighs loudly in the slow moving queue.
I have no idea how long it actually takes to establish a new habit, but I’m a firm believer in practice makes perfect. Join in with the National Prayer Weekend and start practising looking out for the unlikely people and praying for them.