Praying the Neighborhood

You’ve heard of praying the rosary, meditation, and likely even walking a labyrinth as different ways to be in touch with God, your own inner thoughts, and needs in the world.

Instead of praying for peace or good health, I decided to focus on praying for harmony in each of their families and lives. It has become a new way of praying the neighborhood.

I have a pleasant 15-minute commute from an area of the county where we moved about eight years ago. There’s not much traffic, the scenery is beautiful, and I often spend it praying or organizing my thoughts for the day. Sometimes I listen to the radio—a talk station—and the morning drive-time trio can be amusing and a great laugh to start the day. But the DJs can also get very old—particularly the same old commercials, the same old gripes, the convoluted in-jokes.

One annoying morning I cut the radio off early and just decided to focus on my neighbors as I passed each home, praying for harmony in their lives. After eight years, we have gradually gotten to know some neighbors, and I feel that I have a passing knowledge of the needs of some. You can also pick up a lot just by observing the father who put his children on the bus, the older woman who does most of their outside work because her husband has heart issues, the single guy who lives alone in a quiet cottage, the extended Russian family creating their own version of a Russian homestead.

Instead of praying for peace or good health, I decided to focus on praying for harmony in each of their families and lives. It has become a new way of praying the neighborhood—not every day because that gets to be a ritual that can become stale, too. But maybe once a week or whenever it comes to mind.

Because I am paying attention to where I am on my commute, it also can keep me focused on my driving—paying attention to the road (particularly the deer and smaller critters who like to dart across), oncoming traffic that may be straying across the center line, and not cutting curves myself. But it also helps me think in harmonious ways about my neighbors and acquaintances and their needs and health issues (if known) as I go down the road.

Do these prayers help? Many of these folks I rarely encounter in actual life—so no one really knows of this intercession. I will leave that to God and wiser theological gurus to decide how prayer helps, but it helps me feel more peace and harmony on my commute. I do know that our Lord instructed us to pray, and many of us say the Lord’s Prayer at least every Sunday.

Some of you may be saying: I wish she’d just focus on her driving (remember my column a couple weeks ago with advice from a truck driver on aggressive and angry drivers?). Thinking about the road and the neighbors along it actually helps keep my mind from wandering too far. Of course my mind does stray even from this harmony focus. I’ll find myself thinking about what to cook for dinner or the chores that await at home, but as with all forms of meditation, when that happens, you just bring your mind back on track again.

Whatever your neighborhood, whatever your commute (metro, bus, or walking) or whether you are more homebound on a daily basis, it may be worth an experiment. Go down your street in your mind and pray for harmony and peace or other needs. As with many things, the prayers may first of all help you change your own spirit and attitude. We’ll leave the rest up to God.

For a free booklet, Squeezing Prayer into a Busy Life, write to me at, or Another Way, 1251 Virginia Ave., Harrisonburg, VA 22802.

Posted 8/28/2014 7:00:00 AM

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