Sharp About Your Prayers

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On Your Heart?

April 12th, 2013 · 40 Comments · Sharp Prayers

A few weeks ago, I asked if you would think about and pray about this question: Who is my neighbor? Whom should we seek to serve, to care for, and to welcome into Christian community?

Sacred Heart of JesusThis question touches on the church’s outreach, evangelism, education and pastoral care. I have a friend who phrases the question this way: “Whom has God laid on your heart?” 

A few of you have already jotted down your thoughts and handed them to me. Here are some of the responses I have received so far.

God has placed on my heart…

  • The homeless poor
  • Children with special needs
  • The ozone layer
  • Young professionals in NYC who work so hard and feel they have no time for faith
  • The people of Haiti
  • College students
  • Those who can no longer make it to FAPC — our beloved, elderly “shut-ins”

Today, I am asking if you would add your prayerful responses to this list. Please post them to this blog.

Your responses will help FAPC’s strategic planning team as we think together about how best to deploy the resources and energies of this congregation on behalf of the world that “God so loves!” (John 3:16)

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40 Comments so far ↓

  • Abby LaugheryNo Gravatar

    God has lain on my heart abused and neglected kids, abused and neglected animals, the lonely, those who have lost a loved one and victims of all types of discrimination, but especially of late – sexual orientation and gender-identity discrimination. Sometimes it’s overwhelming thinking about ALL the bad in the world, but these are the people I’m actively praying for most often.

    • SBJNo Gravatar

      Thank you, Abby. You have a big heart, and I appreciate you posting those God whom has placed there!

      Blessings,

      SBJ

  • monica smithNo Gravatar

    your neighbor is that person who pops up in your mind in the middle of you praying

  • TamraNo Gravatar

    God is always laying the “artists” of New York on my heart. These artists flock here in search of Home, Destiny and Purpose and are so often trampled by the rigorous, unforgiving and non-uplifting journey that is the pursuit of a creative dream in the modern world. I believe that art has a power that no other gift has. It is a mirror for humanity. For a shared moment, in the presence of great Art, we are united.

    As a church in New York City, we cannot afford to overlook this demographic. Not that long ago, there was a sermon about stories. About why stories are important and why Jesus chose to communicate through storytelling. Well, artists tell stories. There is a conversation that happens in art: artist to artist, artist to audience, human to human. The exchange of words and ideas – these are the threads that tie us all together.

    We need to love on the artists of this city. We need to bring them into our family so they can heal – so they can experience a world in which who they are is valued. That healing will inspire them to tell *stories.* The unrelenting ache they all possess could drive them to carry a mirror for all humanity – that humanity may catch a glimpse of themselves in it and perhaps be moved to change.

    As an artist in the FAPC community, I have noted all the little ways in which ART is being incorporated. I have appreciated every tiny little addition. It is my humble opinion, however, that we’ve not even tipped the iceberg of what is possible and what a powerful movement it could be. Stories. Because they’re not direct and sometimes indirect is better. Open the doors and invite the artists in.

    • SBJNo Gravatar

      Wow. Thank you Tamra for this incredibly thoughtful post.

      Bless you and every artist,

      SBJ

    • Laura FissingerNo Gravatar

      As a writer and visual artist, I couldn’t agree more. Thank you so very much for your post.

    • Nina BarnesNo Gravatar

      Hey Tamra,

      Your blog made me think of how, in what way do my prints tell a story and what exactly is my story. Well I guess I will be very busy for a while. Thanks

  • Nancy MooreNo Gravatar

    God lays on my heart those who are suffering from loneliness and depression. Those are silent afflictions, and often we are unaware of their suffering, and therefore we don’t/can’t offer help. I pray that God will reveal to us their pain, so that we can reach out and offer our love and compassion.

    • SBJNo Gravatar

      Amen, Nancy.

    • Laura FissingerNo Gravatar

      Thank you for your post too. As an FAPC member who has lived with clinical depression since earliest childhood, I have often felt guilty for coming to church needing so much help and support. Your comment suggests that persons like me don’t have to stay on the margins of our faith community.

    • Nina BarnesNo Gravatar

      As a follow- up to the lecture series that we had on depression a few weeks ago, I thought we could organize a panel of volunteers that could offer their experiences in The City including social ones which are not thought of necessarily as therapy which could help people with depression to find success
      in leading fuller lives.

  • Joy CanfieldNo Gravatar

    Thank you for opening up the discussion regarding the needs we are called upon to serve. I echo the thoughts of those who feel that our vulnerable folks need our love and attention. And perhaps that would be all of us. It does seem a possibility to connect these gentle souls who are amid varying transitions to perhaps accentuate the shared feeling — even though it is revealed quite differently between “groups.” Thinking of those who are unable to come to our church due to physical limitations or similar obstacles and those who are dependent on others in perhaps a different sense might bridge the elder members and the youngest members into a mutually benefiting whole. I suppose I’ve always been a fan of elder/child companionship programs so reveal a bias. Nonetheless, this would seem lovely to ponder in one form or another.

    Another perhaps separate but related “group” is more ubiquitous, in those who are having difficulty feeling accepted or personally acceptable. This large and unwieldy group of people may feel that they are not acceptable just as they are, yet wouldn’t they breathe a thankful breath of relief to hear Kate tell them, don’t worry about the ants in your pants, bring your doubts – all are welcome, just as you are. This is clearly the mission of our church and may be supported by creating a means of expanding our incredible message of All Are Welcome — you have the freedom to be flawed.

    • SBJNo Gravatar

      Joy,

      Well said. One of my favorite sermons comes from 1955 and was given by a theologian named, Paul Tillich. It was entitled, “You are Accepted.” It was based on Romans 5:20-21. I think you have got it right!!

      Peace to you,

      SBJ

    • Joy CanfieldNo Gravatar

      re: lumping people in groups/categories. Yes, for so many humans, there is the feeling of being marginalized or dichotomized into a category leading to mutual feelings about “the other guy and his category.” With clients, I often refer to driving 2 different looking buses fueled by the same gasoline. If we could possibly create a message that would help us all to see that self acceptance and acceptance of others — flaws and all — is the glue that binds, that would be significant. It’s a terrible feeling to be glanced at and quickly dichotomized as “one of them” — whoever “they” are. We’ve all done it and we’ve had it done to us. Just in recognizing the sameness in this process, perhaps we could help all of us to see that we are each many things, not just each pole of the spectrum. In fact, God has granted us that “middle” where we actually all live. Hard to say what “group” this would be to serve, as in a way, that would be polarizing/marginalizing/dichotomizing. Yet asking for humanity to come forth with the universal feeling of having been marginalized or pre-judged, could be a start.

  • AnsleyNo Gravatar

    I think it’s really important that the church serve the poor and advocate for them.

    In this city, it’s usually the rich and powerful or at least the well-connected and well-educated who can advocate for what they need and want.

    I feel like the church should try to help the poor, who are often invisible, by meeting their needs and advocating for a more just society.

    • SBJNo Gravatar

      Ansley,

      Thank you for speaking of those on your heart. There can be no question that they are also the ones on Jesus’ heart, as the Sermon on the Mount demonstrates.

      Thank you for your post,

      Scott

  • Constance HubbardNo Gravatar

    Who is my neighbor? Each soul on our planet is included; I prefer not to think of borders when thinking of which to hand up in prayer. Of course, when I come to our Lord in prayer, I think of individuals such as the friend having surgery and all those who will be involved in the procedure, the friend seeking the right job / school / place to live and all those who will be involved in that happening. I believe, there is not one of us who can’t benefit from being remembered in pray: Everyone has something going on. That’s life. Everyone can use a little extra (special) help. Mostly, I pray “Thy Will be done,” cos that pesky free will thing (ours, or that of someone else) can be irksome. And I pray that God’s love will flow through me in all that I do, all that I say, all that I am… Did I drift off-topic?

    • SBJNo Gravatar

      Constance,

      Not off topic at all! I love your comment about “free will.” Moreover, those waiting for surgery or are in surgery always seem to be on my heart too.

      Blessings,

      SBJ

  • Jacky RadiferaNo Gravatar

    God has placed on my heart Madagascar.

    Madagascar is ruled by an unelected and illegal civilian regime that assumed power in 2009 coup with military support. Andy R. adopted the title of president of High Transit Authority (HAT), at the head of loose coalitionof former opposition politicians. Former president Marc R., democratically elected is in exile in South Africa.

    The three most important human rights abuses committed by this illegal regime include: unlawful killings and other security force abusess, arbitrary arrest and detention, an inefficient judiciary, violence against and intimidation of journalists, restrictions on freedoms of speech, press, and assembly, official corruption and impunity, societal descrimination and violence against women, person with disabilities, and the lesbian and gay community.

    I pray for peace and justice in Madagascar and other African countries as well as in the rest of the world.

    Amen!

    • SBJNo Gravatar

      Jacky,

      Madagascar should be on all our hearts, my friend. I thank you for posting, and I look forward to visiting your homeland perhaps as early as next summer.

      BLess you,

      SBJ

  • Adam PeacockNo Gravatar

    God lays on my heart the underprivileged children of this world and young adults searching for a community that will provide them with the fellowship their hearts seek.

    All children deserve to laugh and play. As an adult (who never really grew up himself), I find so much joy in seeing a child smile or laugh because of love that is shown to them. The innocent of this world need to live every moment with absolute joy, be treated with kindness and above all else, protected.

    There are so many young adults searching for a purpose, a home, a community. I was lucky enough to find one at FAPC. My prayer is that all who seek shall find.

    Lastly, living in New York one can see so much anger and hate. I feel God constantly reminding me to show kindness to all people in this world. I try and live by one of my favorite quotes: “I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer it or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.” – William Penn

    • SBJNo Gravatar

      Adam,

      You speak so eloquently of children. Thank you. Surely you are right and they are those who God has placed on the hearts of the church of Jesus Christ in a special way.

      Thank you, good sir,

      SBJ

  • EvelynNo Gravatar

    Anyone in need can be a neighbor.

  • Claire ThomasonNo Gravatar

    At the risk of sounding selfish, I think that sometimes, it is actually good to think of ourselves as our neighbors. In this fast-paced city, sometimes, we can become so preoccupied with others —how can I solve the problems at work, in my family or in the world, how I can I meet the needs of those around me, how can I get the tourists to walk a little faster (kidding…sort of)—that we fail to treat ourselves as a neighbor. We fail to take note of our own physical, spiritual, and emotional health. Learning how to simply sit still or somehow escape from our everyday lives and reflect on who we are and what is important can help us become better neighbors to others.

    For me, the neighbors on my heart at the moment are those who I don’t understand or don’t agree with– people who we all know in which we can’t find any possible way to reconcile the way they think about or treat others. Some of these people share our faith. Some seem to be very condescending and closed-minded. Yet, I wonder if being a good neighbor to them might help break boundaries and heal wounds. And, I wonder if being a good neighbor to them might also help us realize the ways in which we too can be condescending and closed-minded.

    Thanks for the question-

    • SBJNo Gravatar

      Claire,

      Thank you. Your post begins by reminding me of Jesus’ comment, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” His words imply that a healthy love for and respect for the self is necessary to care for others. Second, in my own prayers about this question, one of the answers that kept coming back to me was “the people in the pews at FAPC”–long term members and folk who walked in that morning. I have no doubt that God has placed this group on my heart.

      SBJ

  • Jessica CarmonaNo Gravatar

    God has placed on my heart the passion to fight for social justice and equal rights. In particular, fighting economic inequality and racial oppression./discrimination. Currently I am very involved in the fight for Comprehensive Immigration Reform in his country. I am inspired by past Christian leaders such as MLK. I feel God has led me to be amongst the fighters, the oppressed, to fight alongside them for my rights as well as theirs. Bible in one hand, organizing flyer in the other.

    • SBJNo Gravatar

      Jessica,

      Well said!! The most common commandment from the prophets, as I imagine you know, was that the wider society care for “the widow, the orphan and the alien in your midst.” You are in VERY good company, my friend.

      SBJ

  • Charity de MeerNo Gravatar

    When I first read this email, I thought, well, everyone! I couldn’t think of any realm of person not on the list already. But as I walk down the street since reading the email, I see them. And instead of just walking past thinking I can’t make a difference, I say a quick prayer for them. It’s everyone in my range of

  • Susan SteeleNo Gravatar

    Those on my heart include those suffering from mental illness. Mental illness is a source of homelessness, a catalyst for long-term unemployment, a trigger for ruptured relationships and a cause of prolonged grief in the spouse who slowly loses their loved one to Alzheimer’s. May God’s blessing be on all who are touched by the ravages of mental illness.

  • JohnNo Gravatar

    Who has been laid on my heart? It’s an easy and difficult question. I have a close friend my age who is living as full of a life as possible with cancer and his response to how to die well. His four daughters and wife spend life living together with praise and joy. He is on my heart.
    Another is a good and compassionate friend that is working hard to effect small but significant change in the lives of others.

    These folks are on my heart but lighten it as well. Even though they are in deep distress they are an inspiration.

    Two others that are on my heart would be
    1. the person that looks at a belief in a diety with disdain.
    2. The one that uses the church to profess a dogma that is exclusive, isolating and removed from the great commandment.

    The challenge of these last two is that sometimes, I’m both of those people.

  • charles kartmanNo Gravatar

    I cannot see children, any children, without feeling a sense of joy and the belief that they are what it’s all about. FAPC’s focus on helping our children become a part of a vibrant faith community is one of its greatest strengths.

    But when something is laid on your heart, it is not only joy, it is also a weight. Children who one wishes were closer but live in distant cities, children who are suffering from ailments or disabilities, children who are victimized by violence or simply caught up in natural disasters, children who live in places that do not allow them to experience all the pleasures and security of childhood.

    If children cannot grow in a nurturing and loving environment, how can they come to believe in Christ’s love?

  • Ruth NelsonNo Gravatar

    Not necessarily first, but high on my list is to consider ourselves as the neighbors. I will have to admit that my first prayer every day is one of thanksgiving for the many blessings (and I name them) that I have experienced throughout the day; I also ask for God’s help in directing my life; ie which path is the right one.

    With God’s help one loves oneself, and what follows is to love your neighbor as yourself. Friends who are lonely and depressed because they are lonely need God’s love as well as my compassion and love.

  • Audrey CanfieldNo Gravatar

    God lays on my heart those who do not believe in him. Going to a public school and having family and very close friends who do not believe in God is certainly something which is at times hard to handle. Of course, it is very discouraging and makes me very sad to see such close people in my life disbelieve the most important piece of me. I have found though that God has a plan, and I believe puts those who do not believe in our lives for a reason. Even though nothing may ever happen to their religious lives right now I have found that by gently witnessing my disbelieving friends and family have slowly become more tolerant and even accepting of those of us who have a religion. While I know it would be easy to live in a bubble and try our best to ignore the non belief of others, I feel that God has a plan for us to do more than that.

    • SBJNo Gravatar

      What a humble and beautiful reflection, Audrey. Thank you so much!

      SBJ

      • Joy CanfieldNo Gravatar

        Not surprisingly, I echo Audrey’s thought. Though it may be easy to give up on those who reject what we believe – who we hold closest to our hearts – God’s model is pretty simple. Unconditional love from Him transcends through us to all of His children. All of them. It’s much easier to love the lovable but the unlovable are perhaps the most starved. Here, this week, in the presence of the worst kind of bullying, perhaps we’re reminded that bullies so often have been bullied. God’s message is to never give up. I believe Audrey is reminding us that Christ will be standing there with extended hands when even the most unlovable are leaving our earthly place. If Christ is willing, perhaps we too may extend a hand to those who reject Him. Rejecting in their words or in their actions. It’s tough and sometimes uncomfortable, yet we know God’s love is tougher. He’ll be there along side us.

        • SBJNo Gravatar

          I so agree, Joy, the ethic of love that Christ teaches is powerful, challenging, sometimes difficult to maintain, and yet without it, we are, as Paul writes in 1st Corinthians, a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal! Without it, we have nothing.