When I first had the thought to write this post, Las Vegas was looming large in my mind and in my prayers. Such pain and horror—almost unimaginable, really. And that right on the heels of the devastation of recent hurricanes in Houston, Florida, and the Caribbean.
Then this week, our own small city experienced the loss of two teenagers—from the same high school, at different times—in car accidents. Yesterday, my news feed was filled with images and posts from the deadly, raging wildfires in California.
My heart hurts so much for these cities; I find it difficult to find inside myself words deep and powerful enough to express the urgency I feel in my prayers. Where to even begin? I start with getting myself aligned with God’s heart for those cities.
One thing I’ve discovered is that, unlike me, God is very much a “city person.” (I live on acreage at the end of a private, country road on an island in the Puget Sound—deliberately far away from “the Big City.”) But while my instinct is to avoid the crowds and congestion, He’s not as troubled by it.
The Bible shows us that God looks at cities like individual entities, each having an identity of its own. For example, He calls some “Righteous” and “Faithful” (Is. 1:26), while He calls others “Destruction” (Is. 19:18). Jesus expressed this same heart and personification: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me” (Matt. 23:27).
Knowing that God sees each city with its own corporate identity, challenges, and purpose helps me focus better when I’m praying for one near me. I can pray for a city in much the same way I pray for a person. I can ask God, “How do You see this city? What are Your plans for it? What are the schemes of the enemy against it?”
I look for answers in a variety of places. Some clues are obvious, like the nickname of a city near me, posted on signs clearly visible to everyone entering it: “Welcome to Tacoma: City of Destiny.” Other clues are more subtle. I find them in the news, while driving down city streets, or in conversations with city leaders, businesspeople, or even the servers at local restaurants and coffee shops. Intel is everywhere—if you’re looking for it.
For the cities in the news right now, I’m praying Is. 54:11-14:
“O storm-battered city, troubled and desolate! I will rebuild you with precious jewels and make your foundations from lapis lazuli. I will make your towers of sparkling rubies, your gates of shining gems, and your walls of precious stones. I will teach all your children, and they will enjoy great peace. You will be secure under a government that is just and fair. Your enemies will stay far away. You will live in peace, and terror will not come near.”
What can you pray for your city? You can gather your own “intel” in a number of ways. Be sensitive to what people are saying on social media, even if it’s inflammatory. Instead of reacting, pray! Follow the news, and instead of wringing your hands, intercede! Gather with other believers and inquire of the Lord together about His heart and destiny for your community. Consult local historians and aged residents to find out more about its practical and spiritual history, and use that information in your intercession. Prayerwalk the neighborhoods. Join (or start) a citywide prayer group.
God has asked us to pray for our cities, because when the city prospers, its people prosper (Jer. 29:7). He said, “You who call on the Lord, give yourselves no rest, and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth.” (Is. 62:6-7). Just take “Jerusalem” out of that sentence and insert the name of the city you’re praying for.
It doesn’t have to be a big city. If we live in a community of only 500 people (or less!), we should pray for that community. But there is value in praying for the larger cities, even if we don’t live there. Because they are hubs of cultural, social, and economic life, what happens in them influences the whole region, sometimes the whole nation. The highest concentration of people—and the biggest opportunity for the gospel—is there. Our nation’s cities need our prayers.
Do you think some cities are beyond hope? Even having a bad reputation doesn’t preclude a city from being prayed for. Who can think of a city with a worse reputation than Babylon? Yet God told the people of Judah to pray for her (Jer. 29:7).
God has a heart for the city—every city. So whether you consider yourself a city person or not, “give Him no rest” until His plans for a city near you are established!
(c) 2017 Arlyn J. Lawrence. All Rights Reserved.
Photo credit: Isaac Davies