Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Sunday, September 2, 2018
My Neighbor, in Prayer
As I read this small section of Father Nouwen’s book tonight, I was hit right between the eyes with a verse from 1 John 4. Again. The verse? “Anyone who says ‘I love God,’ and hates his [or her] brother or sister is a liar.” (1 John 4:20)
Thanks, Fr. Nouwen. Thanks, John. Right between the eyes. Again.
“Prayer can never be antisocial or asocial. Whenever we pray and leave out our neighbors, our prayer is not real prayer. True prayer by its nature is socially significant.” 
Good grief. Now I not only feel constrained by Henri Nouwen, I have the added (yet, gentle) pressure of Fred Rogers, too. Two of the gentle giants of the 20th century, spiritually speaking. Yes, in different ways, with different focuses, but here their constraints and pressure cross paths. Oh, I feel it.
Oh, the words of Father Nouwen bring me up short, indeed: “there is some reason to wonder whether the comment ‘I’ll pray for you’ is a sign of genuine concern.”  I believe I have read enough writings and books from both Henri Nouwen and Fred Rogers to understand that each man was indeed concerned for his neighbors—for all of his neighbors. Truthfully, I feel small and insignificant when I compare myself with these two Godly men.
Yet, I must strive to soldier on. I need to continue to care, continue to love, continue to include my neighbors. Yes, in prayer, and yes, in conversation and interaction, too.
Oh, God. How difficult to do, sometimes. But, the apostle John admonishes me with those words that smart from chapter 4:20. Help me to strive to do as You would have me do. Help me to follow the paths of Henri Nouwen and Fred Rogers. Help me—help us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Lord, in Your mercy, hear all of our prayers.
Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.
 With Open Hands: Bring Prayer into Your Life, Henri J. M. Nouwen (United States of America: Ave Maria Press, 2005), 82.