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Published May 2022

CCNL prayer Prompt May 2022

Provided by CCNL (Christian Churches Network of London)

Spring has arrived – snow maybe has gone, grass is growing, birds are singing - time to emerge from our homes to be outside more and see our neighbours face to face again. Are you tempted to whistle or sing Mr. Rogers signature song “It's a beautiful day in this neighbourhood, a beautiful day for a neighbour, would you be mine? Could you be mine? Won’t you be my neighbour?” The word “neighbour” literally means “near-dweller”- those who live nearby - in the house, condo, or apartment next door, down the street, across the road, down the hall, or around the corner. It means someone who lives or works in your vicinity - local merchants, teachers at nearby schools, and even total strangers walking down the street.

We all know the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10… but try to read it today as if you are reading it for the very first time. Be especially curious! Picture yourself as the “religious people” in the story, especially the one who approaches Jesus with this deep theological question…and then look at where the conversation ends up: “A religion scholar stood up with a question to test Jesus. “Teacher, what do I need to do to get eternal life?” Jesus answered, “What’s written in God’s Law? How do you interpret it?” He then said, “That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and that you love your neighbour as well as you do yourself.” “Good answer!” said Jesus. “Do it and you’ll live.” Looking for a loophole, the scholar then asked, “And just how would you define neighbour?” Jesus answered by telling a story. “There was once a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way he was attacked by robbers. They took his clothes, beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead. Luckily, a priest was on his way down the same road, but when he saw him, he angled across to the other side. Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoided the injured man. A Samaritan traveling the road came on him. When he saw the man’s condition, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him onto his donkey, led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. In the morning he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill—I’ll pay you on my way back.’ Jesus then asked: “What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbour to the man attacked by robbers?” “The one who treated him kindly,” the religious scholar responded. Jesus said, “Go and do the same.”

God, this month, we ask you to open the eyes of our souls as we talk with you about neighbours:

1. Help us to love our neighbours as ourselves by learning their names, God…not just refer to them as “the old man in the red brick house”, or “the woman in apt. 346”. Knowing and using someone’s name is a very simple act of love…much more personal and gracious than a token nod of the head or little wave of acknowledgement. When supporting a local store, a business, or service, Jesus help us wherever possible to discover and use neighbours’ names to honor their uniqueness and identity as people of value – they matter to us and to you. Who really are my neighbours?

2. Help us Lord to also ‘love our neighbour as ourselves’ in our actions. The offer of a glass of cold water on a hot summer day, a cup of warm coffee, sharing of tomatoes from the garden or fresh cookies from the oven, maybe a bowl of soup when needed or just a spontaneous snack. These are neighbourly, indeed sacred acts of sharing food that Jesus modelled for us – considered important enough to record in scripture. Get inside our heads and cause us to desire to respond often to your promptings and to notice opportunities for simple hospitality – not showy entertaining, elaborate invitations or token gestures, but heartfelt acts of sharing your goodness in our common human needs – an offer of food, a helping hand, sharing of skills and interests, being noticed and valued.

3. Teach us the value of small talk God. Dr. Preston Pouteaux, a pastor from Alberta who spoke at the CCNL prayer breakfast in 2018 shares this insight in his newest book “The Neighbours are Real”: “Our work as neighbourists is to create a space where others are heard, seen, known, and loved. This is intentional and holy work. When we make small talk, we acknowledge others and make space for people in our day. Sometimes small talk leads to deep more meaningful connections, and sometimes it doesn’t. But without small talk filling the in-between spaces of our community, we will never know what moments will grow and blossom into something more”. Start with “hi” or “good morning” or “can I help?” or “thanks”. Help us to work at greeting people sincerely, as warmly as we would want to be greeted. This may seem way outside of some of our comfort zones, but you Jesus did not seem to suggest that there is an exception clause for loving our neighbour based whether we are introverts or extroverts…we just may display it differently.

4. God, some of our neighbours – those who we may not know by name - have urgent, sometimes desperate needs that we can help with. May our “hearts go out to them” as the Good Samaritan’s heart did with such tenderness. Food insecurity is rising as cost of groceries increases quickly. The London Food Bank and many church or community food cupboards will be strained in coming months. Some neighbours are suffering with fears, anxiety and much loneliness. Too many neighbours, often hidden, are struggling with addictions, especially with the rise of opioid and fentanyl use - it is literally killing them.

We confess we may not notice or even want to find out these needs because we may be afraid, self-focused, busy or just don’t want to get involved – similar to the priest and Levite that passed by the stranger lying at the side of the road in Jesus’ story. Remember Jesus’ question…”Which of the three became a neighbor to the man attacked by robbers?” “The one who treated him kindly,” the religion scholar responded. Jesus said, “Go and do the same.”

Go and do the same! No hidden agenda. No preaching at them each time. No judgement. Kindness is absolutely crucial for our city to thrive. Search our hearts and reveal to us “the ways, the who’s and the where’s” to share that kind of costly neighbourly love. There is no “loop-hole”, no good excuse to not love any neighbour in this way. Kindness is not the same as just being “nice”, especially in our classically Canadian way, nor should we just make it a ‘warm, fuzzy, feel-good’ moment. True kindness is a deep thoughtful compassionate act of the heart and a mysterious, even confusing answer to the question posed by the religious scholar about how to get eternal life. Maybe it is evidence or confirmation of the transformative regenerative power of Christ at work in us. It comes from the same root word as “kin” or family, but God, we acknowledge some of our own families were not always kind – and that we too can be broken people who have to work hard at kindness. We are called to this by your Holy spirit within us, willing us to pay attention to, and to sacrifice for the well-being of others. Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT) “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

Listen to Canadian singer Steve Bell perform this little song “Kindness”, written by Brian McLaren, reminding us Jesus that we are privileged to be your hands and feet of kindness in this world.

5. Heavenly Father, please help us make time for our neighbours. Among the many challenges of the pandemic, one of the hidden blessings was how and where we spent our time. We were at home more often in our neighbourhoods… and you were there with us moving in the middle of it all. For those of us accustomed to “being at church” many hours of our weeks worshipping, learning, meeting, or volunteering, there was a gaping vacuum of time created. We couldn’t be ‘at church’ as easily, or we could chose our ‘church time’ online.

Outside became a safer space to engage with people to have any alternate human contact other than zoom and some new relationships emerged. Interesting enough, some filled the gap by engaging more with neighbours: helping with groceries; keeping an eye to out to shovel sidewalks; driving people to appointments; or volunteering time in community spaces for those in need. Stories shared of people both making meals and receiving meals from neighbours when loved ones passed away, or when family members had COVID, when new babies born or when loneliness overwhelmed. Kindnesses were both shown and received in turn - at times, we were the Good Samaritan - and at times maybe we were the person lying wounded on the side of the road.

Help us not lose these precious lessons experienced in adversity as things ‘go back to normal’ and instead learn how to ‘be the church’ within our neighbourhoods.

6. Some neighbours may not be easy neighbours to love, or maybe we are not the best neighbours in the world either! Teach us to be better peacemakers and peacekeepers when there is conflict or division. Matthew 5:43-47 (MSG) says it well “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the supple moves of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.” Ouch.

7. Remind us God to pray often for our neighbours by name, both thanking you for them and asking you to bless them. Teach us how to respect and engage without creeping neighbours out or being condescending, thoughtfully getting to know them over time – we need much discernment. By your Spirit, help us to show up in broken places. Each situation is unique Lord. We need your wisdom to know what is appropriate to say or not say – we certainly do not have the answers to every problem. Make us lovingly curious, not intrusive.

8. And what do we know about local churches in our area of the city? Take a walk around where you live and/or worship to discover what churches are in your community. Do they have a website, what is their history, who is the minister, how do they serve in the community? Take up the challenge and pray for the pastor and their congregation by name this month. Teach us how to love more intentionally these nearby members of our spiritual family…it begins with understanding. May we speak well of them and encourage each another beyond our labels and our assumptions.

9. Lord, we pray for the high schools in our neighbourhoods this month too. As the school year winds down, we acknowledge that these students have had a tumultuous secondary school experience. Growing into adulthood is not easy any time – and certainly not these last two and half years! Adolescents are particularly reflective of shifts in culture, underlying tensions in society, self image and identity challenges, subject to depression, anxiety, anger, fear... all exacerbated by isolation, social media, racial tension and increasing violence. We invite each of you to go for a weekly or even daily walk around the block of the high school in your neighbourhood and pray for the kids, the teachers, the administration, and the parents. God, we ask you to intervene in the conflicts and misunderstandings. Protect our teenagers and give them much courage and abundant hope for the future.

Coming up this month is the annual citywide prayer breakfast on May 19th. Join us in praying for your part of London – for places and people in your neighbourhood - schools, businesses, churches, healthcare workers, police, first responders, firefighters, city leaders and more. Click here to learn how you can be involved