Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

SHARON ROCKWELL|GUEST

The florist shop in my hometown has been there for decades, an establishment owned by a woman who has a real gift for flower arranging. She also quietly practices her faith using her floral business as a platform to inform her customers of prayer needs for those in our community. Our florist knows first-hand the significant events in many of the locals’ lives. She has prepared flowers for births, proms, weddings, get-well wishes, and funerals, so she has a unique perspective into the major events in the lives of her customers.

Next to the cash register in her shop hangs a small blackboard with two columns: one column for first names, and a second column for a one-or two-word prayer request. On a weekly basis, she types up these prayer requests and has them available for anyone who wants to take the list home. The lists are gone by the end of the week.

These prayer requests have weighed heavily on my heart as I consider the needs of my neighbors: a diagnosis of cancer, a troubled marriage, financial problems, a stillborn child. As astounding to me as the tremendous needs are in my own neighborhood, it is even more astounding that every week random neighbors who enter the florist shop take the list home as a prompt to pray for their neighbors. Many, maybe even most, don’t know the people they are praying for personally. There is no specific church affiliation, no details of the prayer request, no last name of the person who needs prayer, just a quiet prompt for those willing to pray for a neighbor in secret.

Jesus instructed His disciples about praying in secret. “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matt 6:5-6) Who knows the effects these prayers in secret have had on those in need! Those who pray may never learn the outcome, but they have taken seriously the call to “pray without ceasing” for a neighbor.

And who is our neighbor? Luke records a lawyer who asked this exact question of Jesus. First, he asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus tells the lawyer to summarize what he knows is written in the law. The lawyer answers with the Great Commandment “Love the Lord your God . . . and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus replies that this is indeed the key to life. Then the lawyer asks his famous follow-up question “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus’ response is the well-known Parable of the Good Samaritan. My neighbor is anyone in need. In the parable, the Samaritan felt led to share his time and his money out of compassion for a stranger who had been beaten and left on the road.

How many opportunities do we have each day to be neighbors with our co-workers, customers, clients, and business associates? We cannot share our time or money every time we hear of a need, but we can certainly keep our eyes open to recognize those who need to be lifted to the Lord in prayer. We are commanded to love our neighbor as ourselves. What greater act of love than to pray for someone’s ultimate good? We love our neighbor because God first loved us, and part of our obedience out of grateful hearts is the love of others, made in God’s image.

I have found that praying for neighbors when I don’t know more than one or two words about their needs eliminates my bad habit of telling God what I desire. Instead I focus my prayers on granting faith to those in need, strength where it is lacking and that above all, God’s will be done in their lives. I pray that the light of God’s truth shines bright in our community. And that the gospel is shared with everyone who thirsts for the truth. Those with significant needs are often thirsty for the Word.

The florist in our neighborhood chooses to listen to those who cross her path, quietly spreads the need for prayer, and humbly practices the Great Commandment. Our community is a better and more caring place to live because of this one woman and her commitment to practice her faith in her business.

Lord, teach us all to be good neighbors. Teach us to love, Lord, as you have loved us. May we see others as You see them. Bless those who demonstrate your love in their everyday lives; those whose eyes are open to the needs of others for prayer and encouragement, and those who pray on their behalf.

About the Author:

Sharon Rockwell

Sharon is recently retired from a career first as a chemist and then as a regulatory affairs consultant to the medical device industry.  She has served on the women’s ministry team at Grace Presbyterian Church in her hometown of Yorba Linda, California, and has worked as the west coast regional advisor for the PCA.  Her husband, two married daughters and two married sons are all engineers, who provide interesting technical conversations for a dinner table.  Sharon is working on completing her bucket list which includes raising orchids, attending culinary school, bird watching and traveling.  She has three baby granddaughters and is looking forward to the new grandson coming soon.

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