Over the past 40 days, many of us have gathered either in the sanctuary or in our own homes to worship and to pray for our city. One of the things I have appreciated most about our Prayer Guide, “Seek God for the City,” is that it heightened my awareness of the varieties of peoples and circumstances that we encounter in a city like Los Angeles. We prayed for sick people, and for those with disabilities; for intact families and for broken families; we prayed for the news media and for those who work in the entertainment industry; for marriages and for single people; we prayed for health care workers and for gang members, for prison inmates, and for the homeless; we prayed for children and and we prayed for the elderly; we prayed for government leaders, and for university students, for the military and for people in law enforcement; we prayed for the un-employed and for agricultural workers, for refugees, international visitors, and native peoples. The multifaceted varieties of peoples who live all around us is truly mind-boggling.
As we prayed, we were also encouraged to go on prayer walks to the places where people live and work, and speak a word of blessing and peace over them. I found myself on a number of occasions, praying for the people right here in our immediate neighborhood, realizing again that it comprises a stunning diversity of humanity. The students across the street at Clover Elementary School, the visiting scholars who have found a home away from home through our International Student Fellowship, those in our own congregation with special needs and disabilities, refugees from distant lands, the homeless under our freeways, generations from every age group. And each day I found myself being called to pray for yet another part of who we at St. John’s already are.
The Scriptures and prayers that challenged us each day lifted my spirit, and enhanced what Paul called “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3) for in all the diversity of our community it was clear that our true strength is the oneness we have in Christ. That being said, our oneness does not call us us to hunker down in a happy Christian encampment, but to extend ourselves outward as His courageous ambassadors. This generous outreaching spirit was encouraged by many passages of scripture that we read. One favorite was Jeremiah 29:7: “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” We are called to pray for the flourishing of our city, and though we may feel at times like strangers in a strange land, made more so by the fact that we follow Jesus, we are to be marked by Christ’s compassion as we serve the city and its residents in His name.
In that spirit, we invited pray-ers to make a small contribution to our “Prayer Jar” each morning as they felt led. The proceeds of these donations will be given to support the local Habitat for Humanity Project in Culver City, and the humanitarian and missional work of Hope Africa. As of this afternoon Friday, March 23, 2018, I am pleased to say that the total amount of contributions made by our morning intercessors, with one day of our 40 day prayer vigil to go, is $320.49!
Let us pray! Jesus, as we celebrate Your coming to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, we release our hearts to leap forward in hope that You will visit our city – and every city – to bring a great awakening to Your Lordship. And no matter how long we might wait, find our hope fixed on You. Only come, and come to us quickly!” – from Seek God for the City 2018, Day 40. As I think about the past 40 days, I feel spiritually and physically energized, ready to begin the holiest week in the Christian calendar this Sunday, and to rediscover the miracle of our Savior, his matchless life, his journey to the cross for our sin, and his victory over the grave. Hope to see you there…