I am a “PK” (preacher’s kid) and, as is the case for many minister’s families, my family moved from time to time. Whenever my father accepted a call to pastor a different church, we would always have a special time of prayer that God would lead us to a house with neighbors to whom we could bring a blessing. And God always answered that prayer.
When we moved to Tennessee, my parents found a little house in the country. We had three neighbors. Within two weeks, my mom had gotten acquainted with all three of the neighbor women. And every day in worship, we prayed that we could bring a blessing to these neighbors.
Shortly after we moved there, I noticed a boy in the backyard of the house across the street. I saw him at a distance playing. But I was not able to meet him.
A few days later, a church member brought me a small bicycle, too small for his children but just my size. I was sure it was the best gift I had ever received. In the front of our house was a quiet, dead-end street without traffic where I could safely ride the bike. My mom stood watching as I took the maiden ride down the sloping road to the cul-de-sac at the end of the street and then rode back home.
Mother gave me permission to repeat the ride, but this ride was unexpectedly interrupted by shouts, insults, and a shower of rocks from the neighbor boy. Surprised and frightened, I immediately turned my bike around and rushed home.
Disappointed and angry at having my fun spoiled, I blurted out an account of my mistreatment, but Mom already knew every detail, for she had watched the entire episode. I expected her to be upset, too, but she calmly replied that the Bible tells us just what to do under such circumstances. She reminded me that she had been praying for opportunities to get better acquainted with our neighbors so we could be a blessing, and she surprised me with the suggestion that this might be God providing an answer to our prayers.
We prayed together, and then she opened her well-worn Bible and read from Proverbs. “If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink: For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the LORD shall reward thee” (Prov. 25:21, 22).1 Mom then turned to the gospels and showed me how Jesus explained what this verse meant. “Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you” (Luke 6:27, 28).
While I was thinking about what the Bible said, Mom told me about her visit with that neighbor boy’s mother earlier in the week. His father was an alcoholic and would yell and scream and beat the family members when he was drunk. The boy’s mother worked very hard for little pay, and often, the family had little food. While Mother was talking, my anger began to drain away, and I wondered if this family could be one of the reasons God had moved us to our new house.
Mother suggested that I give the neighbor boy some small gift. She had a pack of gum hidden away for a special occasion and thought this might be the right time to use it. With my mom, I walked across the street to the neighbor’s house. As we approached their property, the boy tried to hide in the backyard, but I called a greeting and told him I was bringing him a gift. Slowly he walked toward us, appearing frightened. When he was close enough, I gave him the pack of gum.
That pack of gum brought about a friendship, and my parents were able to study the Bible with his family. That boy never again yelled or threw rocks when I rode my bike past his house. I learned that coals, warmed by the fire of God’s love, can change enemies into friends.
When my father got home and he and I went over the highlights of the day, I excitedly told him about how God had answered our prayers to have neighbors to whom we could bring a blessing. That prayer changed my perspective.
Over the years, I have thought about the daily family worship prayer to bring a blessing to our neighbors. That prayer was just as important for our family as it was for the neighbors. It shaped our perspective and focused our interactions. And it gave me a lifelong habit of praying to bring blessing to my neighbors. I have found it is a prayer God always answers.
- Scripture is from the King James Version.