Lately the Lord has been challenging me to pray for people that I simply don’t want to pray for. I could pretty that statement up with flowery language, but it’s not a pretty truth, so I won’t use fancy words. There are people for whom I do not want to pray. You see, I’m a fiercely loyal person. It’s one of my best traits and one of my greatest weaknesses. I love my friends dearly, work hard for those who’ve chosen me to be on their team, devote myself to inspired leadership, and care for those that put their trust in me…until they let me down. When betrayed, I disappear . When hurt, I harden. When abandoned, I withdraw. Worst of all, I withhold what I hold most dear: any part of my relationship with Christ, especially if it is something we once shared. Hurts given us by our brothers and sisters in Christ cut most deeply because these are supposed to be the friends with whom we can be the most open. We are the most vulnerable with other Christians because we are supposed to all be living according to the same moral code. We have high expectations of these friends and their friendship. When they let us down, it hurts on a personal and a spiritual level. I’ve found that when I am hurt by a fellow believer, the disappointment overflows into my relationship with God. Something like a spiritual sibling rivalry develops. My heart demands that the Father choose me as the favorite and champion my cause over any other. My feelings are not pretty, but I’m being real.
Still, it is my duty to pray for my enemies. There are two more ugly words. I won’t soften the truth by calling them “adversaries” or “former friends.” If I’m not even willing to pray for them, I think I need to be honest with myself and admit that I have enmity toward them in my heart. And “duty”? That’s how it feels: it is a duty. Not a privilege. Not an honor. Not an act of love and friendship. It is a duty; an act of obedience to my God. So, like an adolescent with an attitude, I plop down on my knees and I really, really try to be sincere. I pray the best prayer I can come up with in such a state. It’s not too specific and any prayers for blessing are offered up begrudgingly. Most of the time I can’t think of anything to pray that isn’t somehow self serving and judgemental. Seriously. My heart is not a pretty place.
But, you know what? It’s a start. It’s broken and imperfect and frustrated, but, for all of its faults, it is a sincere attempt to follow God’s command. Thankfully, that’s all He asks. He just wants us to try. He knows that we can’t do it on our own. Friends, we are blessed to serve a God that doesn’t leave us as we are. When even our acts of obedience are broken and begrudging, He will take that tiny seed of faith and grow it into something big and strong. As long as we are open and honest with Him, He will be faithful to meet us where we are and grow us in faith and character. The Lord wants to take our Jonah attitudes and develop them into Joseph perspectives. He wants to develop in us the same strength of character and conviction Joseph had when he protected and forgave even though he could have punished and executed. Thank goodness God doesn’t leave us sitting under a dead tree in the desert boiling in our own bitterness like Jonah! As long as we’re willing to take that first step, our good Father will meet us ninety-nine one hundredths of the way and guide us through the journey of spiritual growth. He will teach us how to pray for those who have hurt us, and even for those that hate us. There is no one better to teach us to love in such a way than the One who prayed from the cross, “Father, forgive them.” I want a heart like that!
So, what’s the point? The point is that the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. In this case, let it be a step of obedience. Even if your prayer begins, “Father, I don’t want to pray for this person, but I know that I need to.” That’s a start! Ask God to change your attitude. Beg Him to soften your heart. He will teach you how to pray when you don’t know how. Better than that, the Holy Spirit will intercede for you when all you can do is bow your head and say, “bless them, Father.” The Lord will honor your effort if it is made in spirit and in truth, because our obedience is our true act of worship.
Oh, and one more thing. As you pray, turn the microscope of judgement upon yourself and consider whether there may be someone out there that is praying for you, even though you’ve hurt them. Maybe your actions have caused this same conflict within someone else. We must be brave enough to ask God to reveal to us our own shortcomings. We must be willing to right the wrongs we have done to others as best we can. The prayers of a righteous man are powerful! We want our prayers to be powerful, so we must pursue righteousness. That means that we do our best to live at peace with God and with man. Who knows whether the growth you’ve experienced and the blessing you have received has been the fruit of prayers offered by a friend once betrayed. Perhaps an abandoned brother or sister in Christ has lifted you up. We must continually challenge ourselves to live in humility as Christ did. We must forgive and seek forgiveness. Prayer is the linchpin that will begin to set us free from anger, hatred, enmity, and condemnation. It is with a prayer that we accept our salvation and it it’s through prayer that the work of sanctification continues. The Bible says that “we have not because we ask not.” Peace and freedom from the hurt and the bitterness we cause one another is available if we will just follow in obedience. I believe what the Lord has said in His Word, that He began a good work in us and He will be faithful to complete it. It all begins with that first act of obedience. Our peace with God should compel us to seek peace with one another. Having tasted the fruits and blessing of obedience in our own lives, we should earnestly pray that our brothers and sisters in Christ will taste them, too. Then the world will see that the Lord is good, and they will want to experience His goodness for themselves. I’ve tasted the fruits of obedience and I’ve experienced the blessing of accepting God’s will. It isn’t always easy. The journey can be long. The battle is hard fought, but it is worth it! Won’t you join me on the journey?
Make a commitment to pray for someone that has hurt you. Start today. If you don’t know what to pray, you can’t go wrong with scripture! Here are some verses to help you as you pray for those around you. I can imagine nothing more powerful than praying the Word of God over them.BibleHub.com
See a comprehensive list of Paul’s prayers at Kevinhalloran.net.
I hope these verses have helped you find a place to start in praying for those around you, even when it is hard.