Editor's note: This article was originally published on Jenni Schoenberger's blog, Mama Plus One. It has been modified and republished here with permission.
The National Day of Prayer is held the first Thursday of May. There's a lot of interest in focusing our prayers on the National level. It is so common for us to get into our bubble and pray for our family, ourselves, the leaders in our own church, or close friends and family who have a need. What I love about the National Day of Prayer is that it's reminding us to pray for our government, for our leaders, and for the things that affect us as a whole, nationally.
It is incredibly important for people to spend time praying for their local communities, not just on one specific day, but in the same way as they'd pray for family, friends, themselves, their job, their stress, and the other things on the prayer list. Not as a duty, but as something that comes naturally, like breathing.
But when it comes time to pray for your own community, it can be hard to think of what prayer the community really needs. Where is there a prayer need? I decided to take a walk and think about how I could best pray for my community.
1. Pray for neighbors
As I walked, I realized a natural way to do this was to pray for neighbors. I encourage you to try this, as well, walking past your neighbors' homes on a prayer walk and praying for those who live near you. Maybe you live in an apartment, where you have lots of neighbors all in your building, or maybe you're in the country or on a farm where your closest neighbors could be even miles away. Either way, pray for those who are around you.
If you know of a specific need your neighbor has, pray for that. If not, pray that God will be present in whatever needs they may have, or whatever they may be facing. If you don't know what prayer needs they have, it's a good opportunity to get to know your neighbors and see if there is a tangible way you can serve them.
2. Pray for leadership
From there, you can pray for the leadership in your local community. Ask God to help your town's leadership and put his hand on the leaders in your town, in all of the various roles, from the Mayor and the City Council, to the School Board, Superintendent, and Principals, to the local community boards. Our town, for example, has a Fall Festival Committee, and that's a specific leadership group that needs prayer right there alongside those who are working on the day-to-day needs of the town. It's important to pray that God put his hand on those who are making decisions for the town, and praying that they will make decisions that honor Him.
3. Pray for the local schools
As you pray for the leadership, pray for the local schools, as well. Pray that the teachers will raise up strong children who become future leaders themselves. Pray for the bullies, that their hearts will soften, and for the bullied, that they can stand strong in the face of adversity. Pray for the principals as they make decisions running their schools, for the nurses to have a healing touch, for school law enforcement and school resource officers to keep kids safe, and for the students that their minds and hearts will be open to education, and to the Lord. Pray for the safety as kids are at school, and pray for the students' home lives, as well.
4. Pray for churches in your community
One area that sometimes gets overlooked is praying for churches in your community. Often, we all feel this tendency to pray for our own church or our own pastor, or our own youth or leadership teams, but we forget that there are many churches that work together in a community to spread the Gospel. Pray for other churches in your community, and your own church, that these churches reach out, practice active outreach, serve others, and welcome the community with open arms.
Pray that the Youth in each church are being shaped and led into active, spirited followers of Christ, that the leadership in the church is sound, and that each church in your community is an active and loving representation of the Body of Christ. Pray for each church that their needs are met and that they are able to serve the Lord well.
5. Pray for service programs
Finally, pray for the service programs in your community that they are reaching those in need. If your town has a local food pantry or clothing closet, pray that the people who need those services are getting them. If your town has a multiservice center that helps with various needs, pray they're meeting the needs of the community. Pray that even groups like library storytime are meeting the families who need it, that if even one mom needs that connection with someone, or if even one child needs a meal, or if even one person needs a warm coat, that the service programs in the community are touching those who need each program the most.
If you feel a tug on your heart, consider contacting these programs and finding out where you can personally serve beyond prayer, but start praying that each of these programs is helping exactly who they need to help, and that each has the resources, donations, and volunteers to sustain their program and continue serving in the community.
When a community has individuals praying for it, or even a group of people praying for it, that community can become stronger. When those prayers are put into action and service, it helps even one step further to strengthen the community and make it a better place to live, not just for those praying, but for everyone in the community. And I think we can all agree that a community that has people praying for it and serving it is a community that will be blessed again and again.