The task of praying for Grand Rapids feels like a big one. But as a church body, no matter how big it feels, we are called to pray for our community.
In Jeremiah 29 God’s people have been exiled from their home—their promised land.
Through the hardship of moving and adjusting to life in Babylon, God doesn’t let the Israelites get stuck on what they have lost. Instead, He uses Jeremiah to remind His people to pray for their new city. Jeremiah 29:7 says, “Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”
While Grand Rapids transplants may feel like exiles at times, like when conversations revolve around Dutch bingo or when they make a crazy Michigan left turn, all of us—transplants and native residents, are called to pray for the city we call home.
So where do you begin? There is no right or wrong way to pray for Grand Rapids, but here are a few tips to get started.
1. Start closest to you and pray out. If you know your neighbor’s names, say them out loud or write them in a journal. If you know they have family members who are ill, bring them before God. Use what you know and pray about it.
2. Pray for the schools near you. Pray for the teachers and volunteers, as well as the students. Expand even further to pray for student’s families and organizations, like Kids’ Food Basket, that provide meals for students.
3. Pray for city and area leaders to make wise decisions. This includes neighborhood board members, commissioners, the mayor, representatives, and senators. Pray that God would guide their decisions.
4. Pray for shopping areas. Pray for business owners, retail employees, and shoppers. Ask that God will work in these places, that kind interactions would occur, and people would be able to find His love in these spaces. Also pray for people who may not feel welcome in certain shopping or restaurant districts and whose neighborhoods have been impacted by the negative effects of gentrification as our city continues to grow.
5. Pray for public spaces. This includes parks, libraries, auditoriums, museums, etc. Wherever people gather, cover it in prayer. Pray for peace and safety in these spaces, that all would feel welcome and no one would feel threatened or unwelcome.
6. Pray for the people who don’t have what they need. Pray that the people they encounter (whether that’s you or someone else) would share kindness, love, and generosity with them. Pray that people in Grand Rapids would have shelter, food to fill their stomachs, and all of their other basic needs met. Ask God to help you be brave and kind if there are opportunities to help those who may not have what you have. As a community we must be for one another.
7. Pray for churches--your church and others. Ask that God will work through His people in this city. Grand Rapids has just shy of 200 churches within its city limits, surely He is doing amazing things through His people, and He can do immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine.
If you’re feeling stuck in a prayer rut, go for a walk, take a seat at a local park, or ride your bike up and down the streets of Grand Rapids. Observe and reflect on what you see. There are opportunities to pray for the city all around you, you just have to be open to your surroundings.
- Kelli Gilmore