Last night at the dinner table our three-year old asked if she could pray. Her words were simple and convicting: “Jesus, make it not sinful in our city. Make it a new city, Jesus. Bring us a new city."
Wow. I was blown away…and humbled. It was a reminder that sin is everywhere in our city. It was a reminder that Jesus cares for the city of Phoenix and cares for the souls of those we are surrounded by each and every day. It was a reminder of how I need to be consistently praying for Phoenix and every other city we occupy. It was also a reminder that I'm called to make disciples throughout the city God has placed me--the city God has has placed our church.
The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah prophesied that God’s people would be held captive in Babylon for seventy years because of their sinful and rebellious hearts toward God. With that being the case, God told the Israelites that they should make the best of the situation.
“Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare" (Jeremiah 29:4-7)
“Seek the welfare of the city” or “seek the shalom (peace) of the city.” The term shalom conveys all aspects of peace, safety, security, welfare, and prosperity. Even though God’s people were captive in a city not their own, God commanded the people to get married, have kids, plant gardens and build new lives in Babylon. The exiled Israelites were to care for the city and the people that surrounded them.
Just as the Israelites lived as foreigners in Babylon, we, too, live as resident “exiles” wherever we are, and we are to abstain from the sin and lusts that bring down those around us (1 Peter 2:11-12). As God’s family of missionary servants, we are called to show the city around us the marvelous light of Jesus, doing good works and seeking peace where we can (Ephesians 2:10; Romans 12:18).
Are we seeking the welfare of our city? Are we praying that the Spirit of God would transform the hearts of the over 4 million people who live in the Phoenix metropolitan area? Are we praying for our city's leaders? Are we praying for our neighbors? Our colleagues? Our teachers? Our first responders? Our coffee shop baristas?
How are we personally seeking the shalom of our cities? Are we engaged in our communities? Do we know where brokenness lies in our city, and are we intentionally seeking to bring new life to that brokenness--through education, politics, business, finance, foster care, recreation, etc?
I'm thinking and praying through these questions (and more!), and I'm asking God to show our Church of the Cross family how best to bring shalom to the Phoenix Metro area, both in gospel word and gospel deed. Will you join me in this prayer?
As we live our everyday lives with gospel intentionality, let us press on to remember that someday Jesus is coming to make a new city—a new Jerusalem. This city will no longer be marred by death, injustice, racism, pain, pride or brokenness. Jesus is coming to make a new heaven and new earth, and he will dwell with everyone who belongs to the family of God (Revelation 21:1-4).
In the meantime, I’m going to continue to pray with my daughter that Jesus takes away the sin of our city—my sin and your sin. And I’m going to encourage my daughter to keep praying for Phoenix as we seek together to restore and renew all things for God’s glory.