Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” —John 11:41-43
In the middle of each Lighthouse prayer seminar I lead, I ask participants to write down the names of five neighbors, work associates, or acquaintances and to spend five minutes, right there, praying for them. After the prayer time I ask, “What did you experience in your prayer time?”
The responses people give, as they tell the whole group about these brief experiences, always amaze me. They tell of feeling “compassion,” “love welling up,” “burden,” “empathy,” and “gratitude” for the neighbors they have prayed for. They said they “are drawn to them,” “want to get to know them,” and “are motivated to do something.” They see themselves as “divinely positioned to reach out” to their neighbors and “ready to take time with them.” They become aware of their neighbors’ “lostness” and “that they matter to God.” All of this takes place in just five minutes of prayer.
What becomes clear to me through responses to this exercise is that praying leads to caring—or, to say it the other way around, caring flows out of praying. As water in an artesian well flows naturally to the surface, so love flows naturally from the heart of a “pray-er”—and motivation to action soon follows.
Jesus’ raising of Lazarus begins with prayer. He has been praying about Lazarus even before he arrives in Bethany, for he says, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.” And as he arrives, Jesus’ loving, caring concern for his friends is evident. He is “deeply moved in spirit” (v. 33), and moments later he is in tears (v. 35). Soon, though, he is taking action as he stands by Lazarus’s grave and calls for him to “come out.”
In Jesus we see a prayer-care-action pattern that is meant to be followed as we reach out to our neighbors and friends. We begin by praying. Then caring follows as love for them wells up in our hearts. And then we are motivated to act in some way on our neighbors’ behalf.
Caring begins in prayer. As you pray for your neighbors, be alert to what happens in your own heart. Do you feel compassion? Do you feel a burden for their spiritual well-being? Do you feel drawn to them? Are you ready to spend some time with them? Do you sense how much they matter to God?
Then action flows from caring. Are you motivated to do something for them? Follow the promptings of your heart as the Spirit of God leads you to reach out in caring ways to the people around you. Act on their behalf in ways that show the love of Christ. This is the biblical pattern.
Prayer Starters for Praying John 11:41-43
- Thank God for his willingness to hear our prayers for others and to use us in providing for their needs.
- Confess any uncaring attitudes toward neighbors that you may have had.
- Ask God to fill your heart with love for those around you and to motivate you to act with love on their behalf.
- Commit yourself to act on behalf of others as the Holy Spirit prompts you.
–Adapted from Be Jesus in Your Neighborhood (Developing a Prayer, Care, Share Lifestyle in 30 Days) by Alvin VanderGriend. This book is available at prayershop.org. Use the code CONPSP3 at checkout to receive an additional 10% discount.
Praise the Maker of heaven and earth for the marvels of creation in this world. Thank the Lord that he never slumbers or sleeps and that he constantly watches over you. Confess those times in which you refuse God’s help and resent his watching over you. Commit yourself to trusting fully in the Maker of heaven and earth. Ask that God himself will make you strong, firm, and steadfast (1 Pet. 4:13).
Pray that marriages in danger of breaking up will be healed and the pain of divorce avoided.
“The first purpose of prayer is to know God.” —Charles L. Allen
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