We live in a neighborhood where people pretty much keep to themselves. After almost two years of living in our house, we’ve probably only spoken in depth to three of our neighbors. Sadly, we still don’t even know their names. A few months ago, the neighbor who lives on the left of our house came over and said that we needed to get our fence fixed. This surprised us because we assumed the fence belonged to them. After we checked the work up of our property boundaries, we discovered that the fence is indeed the neighbor’s responsibility. No part of the fence is on our property. When we confronted her with the paperwork containing our property boundaries, she admitted that she knew the fence was her responsibility. In other words, she tried to scam us into fixing something that wasn’t our responsibility.
Needless to say, this encounter rubbed us the wrong way. In our flesh, we vowed never to look in our neighbor’s direction again. However, after seeking the Lord through prayer and reflection, the Lord showed me that this is not an opportunity to repay evil for evil, but it’s an opportunity to demonstrate God’s love through intercession.
Even though the Bible tells us to pray for our enemies, we rarely think of our enemies when we think about intercessory prayer (Matthew 5:44). However, God wants believers to stand on the behalf of those whose actions demonstrate that they aren’t in relationship with Him. If you don’t know how to pray for your neighbors, pray in the Spirit. The Holy Spirit will make intercession for us when we don’t know what to pray (Romans 8:26).
If your neighbor rubbed you the wrong way like our neighbor, read the story of Jonah. Jonah complained after God extended grace to Nineveh once they repented after Jonah preached to them. As a result, God rebuked him and opened his eyes to see why He extended mercy to them. Jonah 4:11 says, “And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals” (NRSV)? God wants to extend the same compassion to our neighbors and enemies. Intercessory prayer might be the catalyst God uses to bring them back to Himself.
I have no idea what led my neighbor to try to get us to pay for their fence. They could be facing financial hardship. Whatever their reason, the Lord is asking me to pray for them. Who knows how God will move? Their lives might be radically changed. Whatever the outcome, it starts with our obedience. It’s time to start interceding for our neighbors.
Has the Lord ever asked you to pray for a stranger or neighbor?