Out walking through the neighborhoods around our own—
walking a long loop from Rodgers Forge through Pinehurst,
Midhurst, Cedarcroft, Lake Evesham, Homeland,
Charlesmeade, the Orchards, Charlesbrooke,
Armagh Village, and Woodbrook—
or a shorter loop through Murray Hill and The Four Winds,
or through Anneslie, Stoneleigh, Wiltondale—
out walking, as pastor of a church located in
and surrounded by these neighborhoods,
pray for you (us) who live in these neighborhoods.
And I must confess to you (or reassure you),
though born and raised baptist
and pastor of a church from the baptist heritage,
I have not once prayed for your eternal souls—
never prayed that you would escape the fires of hell—
haven’t even prayed for some meaningful participation
on your part in a faith community.
I have so very intentionally
tried to focus my prayers for you through you
(my imagined sense of you)
not my own views, perspectives, priorities, and beliefs.
I have thus done my best to ignore
your political bumperstickers or yardsigns,
the size of your house, the kind of car you drive—
how much more beautifully conceived and maintained
your garden and backyard are than mine—
anything that might distract me with distinctions and differences
potentially becoming divisive,
and have instead imagined those things
we might share in common regardless of any differences.
And so I have prayed for foundational relationships of love and intimacy
to both ground you and set you free.
I have prayed that you are both loved well and that you love well,
and I have prayed for the discipline and commitment
you and your loved ones will need
to sustain such relationships.
And I have prayed for you who don’t know that kind of love—
in all its fullness, richness and depth.
I have prayed for you who feel so very alone.
I have prayed for the well-being of your children and grandchildren.
In our culture of dis-ease and violence,
I have prayed for their health and safety and yours,
even while also praying for those of us,
and those of us whose loved ones,
Amidst prayers for children celebrated,
I have prayed for you desperate for children
and unable to have them,
and for you whose children make you desperate,
and for you who have lost children and thus part of yourselves.
I have prayed that your home might be experienced
as a sanctuary of love and peace—
characterized by trust, grace, and hospitality—
and celebrated by all who are invited in.
And I have prayed for you whose houses are battlefields
characterized by a scorched earth strategy,
a violent need to dominate,
a fierce desire to hurt.
I have prayed for a sense of fulfillment
in your vocation and your avocations,
and for you whose souls are shredded by your work—
what you do for a pay check.
I have prayed for you without work
and for you who are retired
and busier than ever—
or adrift without a sense of purpose.
I have prayed that you feel both significant and valued.
I have prayed for a healthy (hard to attain) balance in your living—
a balancing of the physical, the sensual,
the emotional and the mental, and the spiritual—
a balancing of the gifts you offer yourself
and the gifts you offer others—
a balancing of accepting appropriate responsibility,
but not assuming too much.
And I have prayed for all who live
both somewhat and precariously unbalanced.
I have prayed thanksgiving for you whose lives are full,
and intercession for you whose living is marked
by empty places of loss and grief.
I have prayed for you who live in fear—
that you will wake to see
that fear robs you of what you’re afraid
someone or something else will.
And I have prayed for you who live in anticipation,
that you will not be undone by disappointment.
And in my praying, I have noticed that almost all specific prayers
that apply to these, don’t apply to those
such that virtually each prayer requires another
(if praying for a large enough community),
and to pray for anything is to pray for its opposite.
I have considered the importance of praying for opposites—
considered the fact that thinking through a particular context
in light of other possibilities
is both eye-opening and prayer expanding,
and we don’t practice that discipline enough—
which is, in truth, the discipline of loving our neighbor
as ourselves and not for ourselves.
Though I confess, I have prayed unadulterated prayers
for your compassion—
that you would retain that sense of a bigger connection—
not just an interrelatedness, but an interdependence
that is an integral part of wisdom—
we will make the decisions, the sacrifice, the commitment
to make this a better place
and tomorrow a better opportunity
for those who will walk these neighborhoods
in years to come.
I pray in the name of the one who came to walk among us …
and still does—