Jesus offered us a framework when it comes to praying for our neighborhoods, states and beyond.
Posted in , Jun 15, 2020
Many of us pray, even daily, for the personal needs and concerns closest to our hearts—marriages, children, grandchildren, finances and so on. But there’s a whole world out there, and that world has never been closer to our lives than it is these days.
Among His final words to His closest followers before physically leaving this earth, Jesus gave a commission that can also frame our prayers for communities large or small, near or far away. Call it “praying concentrically.” Big word, I know, but it’s pretty simple. It’s merely following the design Jesus gave His followers when He promised, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8, NIV).
To those first followers of Jesus, Jerusalem was the center of the world, their community. So “Jerusalem Prayers” are prayers for our neighborhood, church and town, like the prayers of the psalmist who sang:
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May those who love you be secure.
May there be peace within your walls
and security within your citadels.”
For the sake of my family and friends,
I will say, “Peace be within you.”
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your prosperity. (Psalm 122:6-9, NIV)
That’s a prayer worth praying both for modern Jerusalem and for our own “Jerusalem,” for peace, security and prosperity in our communities.
Judea was the region that surrounded Jerusalem, encompassing villages and outposts both rich and poor. So Judea (or Judah) prayers are prayers offered for our region, state or province. Like the psalmist who mentioned both Jerusalem (“Zion”) and Judah, saying:
“God will save Zion
and rebuild the cities of Judah.
Then people will settle there and possess it;
the children of his servants will inherit it,
and those who love his name will dwell there.” (Psalm 69:35-36, NIV)
Judea prayers ask God to bless, preserve, rebuild and improve the region of communities, towns, cities and areas surrounding us—for their homes, farms, businesses, services and more.
That Jesus included Samaria in His commission to His followers is remarkable. The people of Samaria were different. They were “other” people. But Jesus’ love didn’t exclude those with different ideas and different customs, and neither should ours.
So “Samaria Prayers” are prayers offered for those outside of our close—or even contiguous—communities, praying for the peace, security, prosperity and blessing of those communities…as well as greater understanding and interaction between us all, as Jesus demonstrated when He “had to go through Samaria [and] came to a town in Samaria called Sychar” where He met the woman at the well and made her both disciple and evangelist (John 4:4-5, NIV).
The final circle in our concentric prayers is reflected in the phrase Jesus used: “the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8, NIV). We gladden God’s heart when we pray for “the ends of the earth”—those in other countries, continents and cultures. What do we pray? The psalmists can guide us:
—"The ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord." (Psalm 22:27, NIV)
—"Your name, O God, Your praise reaches to the ends of the earth." (Psalm 48:10, NIV)
—"All the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God." (Isaiah 52:10, NIV)
—The flock of God "will live securely, for then His greatness will reach to the ends of the earth." (Micah 5:4, NIV)
Ends-of-the-earth prayers ask that for the blessings we enjoy to also be showered on them, and for the blessings they enjoy to also come our way. Ends-of-the-earth prayers remember those who live in darkness and those whose light can be a shining example to us. Ends-of-the-earth prayers can bring closer those who are our brothers and sisters, and unite us with those who are far away.
Try it. Try praying according to the design Jesus gave His followers when He promised, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8, NIV). You may be surprised at how concentric praying changes not only the world but you as well.