by Bill Mowry
Choosing the right playing field for a sport is a no-brainer. We don’t play basketball on a baseball diamond. However, when it comes to the playing field of faith, I think there are two fields we can play on but one field tends to dominate our playing time.
In my normal prayer gatherings, I find that nearly 100% of the prayer concerns that I and others express are what I call “prayers of circumstance.” This is the playing field of everyday life. We’re immersed in difficult life circumstances and we need God’s help.
This circumstantial help could include:
- my current employment (or lack of)
- health issues
- restoring a relationship
- protection from ____________
- wisdom for ______________
The list could go on. Now, we’re exhorted to “cast” these anxieties on Him (1 Peter 5:7) because “we’re his personal concern” (Amplified Bible). Casting has the picture of throwing off or discarding something. The prayer of faith enables us to discard and throw the anxiety of life’s circumstances on the grace and power of our loving father. Peter emphasizes that all of life’s circumstances can be placed on the Father’s shoulders.
I regularly play on the playing field of circumstances but I’m also called to another playing field of faith. What is this different playing field? I call it the field of place and people.
When we examine the Old Testament promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, we find God promising a place or a land and descendants or people (Genesis 12:7;13:15; 26:3). He wanted to provide a physical place of blessing and to populate it with people — a purpose that began in the garden of Eden (Genesis 1:28). God is always concerned about a place and people.
While the New Testament expands the place to “all nations” (Matthew 28:18) the priority of a local place and people is still present. Whether it’s Jerusalem, Judea (Acts 1:8), or my family and friends (Mark 5:19), physical place is important. Living in this place are people, people Jesus refers to as “the harvest” (John 4:35). This harvest is so important that he commands us to pray for workers for that harvest (Matthew 9:36-38).
The playing field of place and people is all about neighborhoods. A broad definition of a neighborhood is a group of people in a place where we have on-going relationships and we share and create a history together. These neighborhoods can include workplaces, the typical home neighborhood, a school or college, or teams and associations for sports or hobbies. We’re called to love people in these “neighborhoods” (Matthew 22:39) and start conversations of hope (1 Peter 3:15).
Peggy’s and my place is our physical neighborhood. We’re deeply immersed in this collection of houses, yards, and dogs. Almost daily we have conversations about our neighbors. We notice if a widow’s yard needs mowing, we join in on our neighbor’s four-year old’s birthday party, or I help a neighbor build his small pole barn. In the midst of loving our neighbors, we trust God for faith conversations.
Yet . . . when we gather together to pray we seldom choose the playing field of place and people. Rarely does the subject of neighborhood or place come up in prayer meetings. Again, we’re used to the field of circumstances, praying for someone’s current financial need or for a friend’s illness. While God is concerned about these needs, I think we should regularly shift to the playing field of place and people. How can we do this?
In our campus ministry, we would center our prayer times around three types of people:
- Who’s next? Who are we praying for to engage in a faith conversation?
- Who’s new? Who is new to the faith?
- Who’s growing? Who is taking steps to grow as a disciple?
Do you notice the shift in focus that this prayer format makes? We’re now praying about a place and a people. Praying this way changes the playing field of our group prayer times.
Let’s team up to play on both playing fields of faith. The field of circumstances is where we live our lives and our Lord is concerned about this field. However, He asks — He commands us — to also play on the field of place and people. Want some help to get started on this playing field? Check out the website and app of Blesseveryhome.com. It will help you identify who your neighbors are and how to pray for them.
The next time you pray with people, set the pace and ask people to pray for your place and for the people in it. Ask them to pray that you would spot opportunities to serve or for opportunities to start faith conversations. Drop me a note and let me know how your example affected this playing field of faith. Let’s choose to play on the field of place and people.