If you give me a box of crayons, though, and a piece of paper and ask me to draw the ideal place to live, it is none of the above. Likely it would be a place on a lake, situated so the sun would rise over mountains behind the house, and set across the water spread out before my spacious front porch. No antelope in my art-work, but deer would roam there. If you pressed me for details, though, somewhere, just out of sight, far enough away that I couldn't hear or see it, there would be a city--a city where my wife could shop, where I could take her on a nice date, go to concerts and see lovely architecture. I'd like for there to be a baseball team there--triple A would do. There ought to be places to work and learn. The college there ought to have a noble laureate on faculty. The signs, as you come into town should boast "Home of . . ."
In other words I want the benefits of city, I just don't want to live there.
I was brought up short, along these lines, this morning as I was studying 1 Timothy 2, getting ready for Sunday's message. I Timothy 2 has a strong emphasis on praying for our community and our leaders.
First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. . . . Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension. (1 Timothy 2:1–8, NASB95)
I confess, I tend to think of cities in a somewhat negative light--"Nice places to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there." Cities, however, when done right, are places that produce great works. As people pool their resources, talents, dreams, and hard work, great things emerge. That is, if those people are able to "lead tranquil and quiet lives." On the other hand, some of the recent unrest in cities, reminiscent of the late sixties, reminds us that piling people together without the benefit of that which fosters tranquility and quiet, is like piling oily rags in the furnace room. Sooner or later . . .‘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 have welfare.’ (Jeremiah 29:7, NASB95)
All of us, whether we live at the end of a dirt road or in a high-rise looking down on millions, ought to be praying for our nations, our leaders, out communities. And for all of us that includes our cities--those engines of culture and influence that drive culture.
Trevin Wax suggests some ways to pray for our cities:
You can read his entire blog post here.