ENGAGING THE PRACTICAL TIP
This weekend, Pastor Donnell closed out his series on Being a Good Neighbor. This week, he focused on a passage from the third chapter of the letter of James, the brother of Jesus. James wants to see a life lived out. He wants to see actions, not just words, from his Christian brothers and sisters:
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. (James 3:13–18)
Pastor Donnell also referenced several other related passages from Scripture, including a section of the 13th chapter of Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Cor 13: 4-8)
This week, we suggest praying this passage as a way to assist us in opening up our hearts to how we look at and interact with our neighbors. (If you aren’t familiar with praying with Scripture, we describe one approach below.) When you have some time to pray this week, we suggest you start by taking a minute or two and quiet your mind. As things or people come to mind, present them to God’s care while you are praying. Now imagine your neighborhood. You might walk down the street, or the hallway. Take note of the houses or apartments or rooms as you pass by. Do you know the people who live there? At this point, simply take note of them, either by name or appearance. If you don’t know them, simply make note of that and move on. Do this until you’ve covered what you consider to be your neighborhood. Now read the two passages above slowly, keeping your neighbors (and yourself) in mind. You might consider how you or your neighbors reflect the kind of person James describes. Invite God to join you in this activity. As usual, pause if something in either of the passages strikes you in a particular way. After you complete the passages you might simply be quiet for a minute or two and let your experience sink in. Invite God to consider these things with you or to speak to you about them if it seems right.
As you are ready to read the passages again, recall your imaginary walk through your neighborhood and then begin. This time, try to be particularly aware of the movements you experienced the first time through. Go through the passages more slowly this time through, stopping and sitting with God as seems right. As with the first time, keep your neighbors in mind, and yourself, as well. After you have completed the passages, thank God for the time with Him. You might note any significant experiences or inclinations that came to mind during your time of prayer.
Praying with Scripture
One time tested way to pray is to meditate on a passage from the Bible. To do this, one selects anywhere from a verse to a couple of paragraphs from the Bible and reads them through slowly several times. You can read the passages out loud or to yourself. Reading out loud, when appropriate, can be beneficial, as it slows you down. You also effectively read twice each time through the passage, once when process the written words and a second time when you listen to yourself speak them. As you begin, you might invite God to join you in this activity. (This may seem odd, since you are praying to God in the first place. However, since we have no way to reach God on our own, God is both the enabler and the recipient of our prayer.) As you are reading, if something in the passage strikes you in a particular way, stop for a few seconds or a minute and let that thought or feeling sink in. Consider asking God about that thought or feeling and whether it is from Him or not. When the thought or feeling passes, return to reading the passage. Repeat this process if another part of the passage strikes you in a particular way.
The second time through, read more slowly. Again, stop if anything in the passage strikes you in a particular way. Pay particular attention to those portions where you stopped the first time through. Recall the experience from the first reading and ask if there is more to the thought or feeling than you sensed the first time through. After you have completed the passage the second time, thank God for the time with Him. You might note any significant experiences or inclinations that came to mind during your time of prayer. You can always read it three or more times if you would like. Also, some people find it helpful to take a minute or two before starting to read to quiet your mind. The main goal here is simply to effectively put aside whatever has been occupying us for the time of prayer. As you are trying to be “quiet”, as things or people come to mind, simply acknowledge them and present them to God’s care while you are praying.
Feel free to share your experience with others who have also tried this prayer exercise by commenting below or emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org.