Loving New Yorkers Through Prayer

By Roger McPhail   •   March 29, 2005

“How are you?” I said, not really expecting a reply. All my neighbor Morris ever did was grunt at me.

In the one conversation I had had with him in the 10 years we had been neighbors, he turned the air blue with curse words–not at me, but just at life in general. He was a sad, bitter, lonely old man. Could you blame me for not really wanting to talk to him? On top of that, I was running to my car because I needed to get an early start on my day. But there was Morris, standing outside his apartment building–like he did every day–waiting for his ride to his son’s factory. At 78 he still worked five days a week.

Just as I opened the car door he shouted out his reply, “I’m not doing good.”

He was 30 or 40 feet away from me, so I shouted back, “What did you say?”

“I’m not doing good,” came the response. So much for a quick getaway. He knew I was a believer, so it quickly became apparent that God had set this up. Closing the car door, I walked over to Morris and gently asked, “What’s wrong?”

That did it. He put his head on my shoulder and cried like a baby. When I could finally calm him down, he managed to say, “I’m filled with cancer. My doctor just told me yesterday.” Then, to my utter amazement, he said, “I’m not sure why I’m telling you this; I haven’t even told my family yet.” So, with his head on my shoulder, I put my arm around him and said softly, “I know why you told me. God wants me to pray for you.” And so I did.

Going back to my car that morning, I felt overwhelmed at the mercy of God for Morris. Just a few months earlier I had learned about prayer evangelism. A group had come to our church and had taught biblical principles with the basic idea that we must change the spiritual climate of our neighborhoods so that we not only pray against the power of Satan but also pray that people’s hearts would be softened.

We were challenged to pray for the five families that live to the left of us and for the five families that live to the right of us. Because we live next to an apartment building, I really didn’t know folks by name other than “that nice lady with the dog” or “that grumpy old man” (who turned out to be Morris). So each night our family would pray for “that grumpy old man.”

What I could not do in 10 years–share God’s love with this man–God did in just a few months when we began to pray. God penetrated a high-rise building, and, more important, He penetrated Morris’ heart. That profound encounter changed my prayer life forever–and led to other fruitful encounters. Our church started walking the streets of our neighborhood and speaking the blessings of God over them. More fruitful encounters. Last year hundreds of churches came together on a Saturday in June to walk the streets of New York City, invoking God’s blessings on His people and asking for a change in the spiritual climate. This year we expect to have more than 400 churches and 7,500 people pray through the streets of New York before Billy Graham’s Crusade here in June. Through our prayers God will prepare people’s hearts to receive the Good News.

The only way we’ll ever reach the “Morrises” who live in New York City is through prayer. The Holy Spirit can penetrate the highest of buildings and the hardest of hearts.

Through my experience with Morris, I re-learned what we too often only pay lip service to: Prayer brings in the harvest. Do you have a “Morris” living next to you? Are you praying for your neighbor? Right now, lift up your neighbor in prayer. God is listening.

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