Praying for the Unseen in Front Yard Mission

Steve Lutz
5 min readJun 3, 2021
Photo by McKenna Phillips on Unsplash

We must remember that prayer takes us into the unseen but very real spiritual battlefield that is all around us. Spiritually speaking, there are strongholds, obstacles, and resistance to Jesus and his kingdom. Paul says, 3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” (2 Corinthians 10:3–4).

A stronghold is anything that sets itself up against the power and life of Christ. In other words, Front Yard Mission is spiritual warfare, but your neighbors are not the enemy!

There is an enemy, and it is bent on hindering the expansion of Christ’s kingdom in your neighborhood. This was also part of Jesus’ instructions to the 72 in Luke 10, saying that he was sending them out “like lambs among wolves,” because he knew they would encounter resistance. If our Front Yard Mission consists merely of doing nice things for people, then we are not engaged in every level of Front Yard Mission.

So don’t become paranoid and think that every little thing is a demonic attack. But neither be naive in assuming that this is never at play. Our church in State College really wanted to lean into praying for our neighbors. We cancelled our regular worship gatherings for what we call a CWOW (Church Without Walls) Sunday. Our goal was to pray for 10,000 homes in our communities. As we debriefed a couple days later, it was clear that people had participated enthusiastically. We hit our goal and felt momentum towards taking further steps in love in our community. But we also heard story after story of people encountering resistance, right at the point of stepping out their front door. Many of them were about kids having Defcon 1 meltdowns at the exact moment they were trying to leave. One of our pastor’s sons skinned both his knees really badly two steps into their prayer walking. They were tempted to call it off right then, but cleaned him up and got back out there. I’m not saying every time a kid skins his knees before prayer walking is spiritual warfare, but don’t assume it isn’t either. Because of the eternal stakes, you should expect internal and external resistance when you engage in frontline kingdom work. Especially just outside your front door!

One neglected way of to pray for our neighbors is to confess and repent for the sins of our community. This is a priestly function, and Peter says that in Christ we are a “kingdom of priests.” Priests talk to God for the people. When we intercede for people, we should intercede for the things that keep them from God, and first and foremost that’s always their sin.

“But how can I repent of sins I didn’t commit?” you might be thinking. Two things I’d say to that. The first is that as we confess and repent for the sins of our neighbors, especially the culturally acceptable ones, we might find ourselves more complicit in them than we realize. It’s hard to be an American and not be influenced by pervasive sins like greed and pride. The second is the biblical examples of leaders who were virtuous, but took it upon themselves to own the sins of their neighbors in order to seek God’s favor for them. We see this with Moses, Nehemiah, Daniel, and of course Jesus. This is spiritual maturity. It’s Christ-like. And it leads to transformation of entire communities.

Daniel’s experience in prayer is instructive. Now Daniel is about as virtuous a man as anyone this side of Jesus, yet he prays at length, “confessing my sin and the sin of my people” (9:20), going into excruciating detail of all the ways they have turned from God. Later he learns that from the moment his prayer went up, a spiritual battle raged between “the prince of Persia” and the archangel Michael. We don’t know what’s happening in the spiritual realm, but our prayers are key to that battle.

If you’re ever stuck on what to pray for your Front Yard Mission, and you don’t have some biblical prompts on hand, a couple more suggestions. The first is to just ask them! Ask people how you can pray for them. You don’t have to be weird about it. Just saying something like, “Hey, sometimes when I walk around our neighborhood I like to pray for people. Anything I can be praying for you about?” They might be thrilled, they might think it’s weird, but maybe you’ve gotten some concrete information to pray for and you’ve planted a seed, and now they know something of what you’re about.

Another way to pray is what author Anne Lamott calls the three “essential” prayers: “Help, Thanks, Wow.” Ask God to help your neighbors. Give thanks for them. And ask God to amaze them. We can all do that.

HOW OFTEN SHOULD WE PRAY?

Let’s review. We’ve talked about why we should pray first, and what we can pray for. So finally, how often should we pray? We suggest the following rhythm for your Front Yard Mission prayers.

  • Daily: pray for your hashtag (the 8 people/households immediately around you)
  • Weekly: pray with 1–2 others (could be spouse, roommate, friend) for your Front Yard Missions.
  • Monthly: Pray with others for your Front Yard Missions (say, in a small group)
  • Quarterly: Prayer walk your whole neighborhood or area. If you live in a more rural area, take a prayer drive. If you’re not physically able, take a virtual prayer walk with Google maps! The point is to pray “onsite with insight.”

This daily/weekly/monthly/quarterly rhythm provides both a consistency and a variety that will help keep your prayers fresh. It’s essential that all your prayers are not you, by yourself. We need the insight and perspectives of others. We need to share praises and requests with each other as well.

We think this rhythm is also doable and sustainable. Prayer isn’t before the work of Front Yard Mission, it is the work. But that doesn’t mean it’s meant to be drudgery. Jesus’ yoke is easy and his burden is light. Prayer should be an embrace of Jesus’ easy yoke. So please don’t skip over “Pray First” to get to the fun stuff. Sharpen the axe every day, and watch how God works!

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