Welcome to our annual prayer series! Each day, we’ll be posting brand-new content to encourage your prayer life. Enjoy, and find our prayer journals for 2022 here! The following post was written by our Chief Marketing Officer, Kara Bryant.
In our prayer journals, we have a prompt called “The Heavy”. It encourages you to “ask God to help you forgive hurts and love the hard to love.” Not gonna lie, I’ve often skipped this section. 😬 Sometimes because I truly can’t think of anything to put there, but also I just don’t really want to dwell on it too much, ya know? It’s so much easier to pray for those we love! Jesus knew that.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?” -Matthew 5:43-46 (NIV)
I think he gives us a couple good points to think about in this passage.
WE’RE CALLED TO BE COUNTER-CULTURE
The very nature of the Christian life is to go against the grain. Just think of Jesus’ own life! Now, I’m not saying be different just to be different, but rather to recognize that this call to love and pray for our enemies is going to be difficult because of the culture we live in. Even though the world says, “block out the haters” and “cancel those who don’t agree with you”, we’re called to love, to pray for those who rub us the wrong way.
HE LOVES THE HARD TO LOVE
I’ve always been intrigued by this little piece of Scripture: “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous.” While his greatest blessings are reserved for his followers, he still reveals his love to all people regardless of their actions. We know from 2 Peter that this is because he desires no one to perish, but everyone to come into relationship with him. How would it change our perspective on hard to love people if we viewed them as loved and called by God?
So far, I’ve assumed that this hard-to-love person we’re talking about isn’t a believer, but if they are, how much more so must we love and pray for them? They are not our enemy, but part of our family in Christ. Just like we can be assured that God “who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion…” (Philippians 1:6), we know this is true for them as well. We can pray that they will continue to grow in him.
At the core of loving others well and having the heart to pray for them, though, is recognizing that we were once “hard to love” and let’s be real, still are from time to time. 🙃 After all, it was, “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) When pride starts to rear its ugly head, remembering this always brings me down a notch and helps me have compassion for others.
So, if we have a solid understanding of why we should be praying for those who are hard to love, the next question is how? The following prayer Val included in Springboard Prayers is a great example of some of the key elements we can include in prayers for our enemies. The prayer is in italics and you’ll see my thoughts throughout.
Father, I hesitate to even pray this prayer because I don’t want to believe I have any enemies. But when I get honest about my true feelings about this person, I know what resides in my heart is not love. And that’s why I’m coming to You.
Getting honest. We don’t have to pretend we feel any differently than we do. Val’s new book, Pray Confidently and Consistently, has a lot of encouragement about approaching prayer from a real place.
Because my desire is to find freedom from this grudge and to instead be filled with love for them.
We can pray for the heart change that we don’t yet have! He wants nothing more than to help us align with him.
The uncomfortable truth is, I’m not battling the spawn of Satan (as they can seem in my mind). I’m battling one of Your children. A child that you love and offer forgiveness to, just like me.
Here’s where we recognize who this person actually is, someone who is loved by God.
You’ve forgiven me of so much Father (Eph. 4:32). You ask me to do big things, like love not only those who are kind to me, but those who persecute me as well (Matthew 5:43-47).
Here’s where we recognize who we are. A person in need of forgiveness just the same. A person who has been called to a higher purpose.
But not only do You go before me and lead by example, but You also have given me Your Holy Spirit that makes it possible to love. Soften my heart to them right now. Lord, may my instinct be to pray for them when thoughts of them enter my mind. In Jesus’ Name, amen.
And finally, here’s where we recognize who God is. He’s with us and ready to help us forgive, love, and pray when we come to him.
If reading this brought someone specific to mind, maybe that’s who needs to go in “The Heavy” section of your prayer journal this month.
If you have an example of how praying for your enemies has been fruitful, would you share in the comments below? I’m sure we could all use the encouragement!
A note: If you’ve been hurt physically or emotionally in such a way that this short response doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of what you’re experiencing, we are so very sorry. If you haven’t already, we encourage you to reach out to a pastor or counselor for further encouragement and wisdom on your particular situation.
CATCH UP ON:
How to make time to pray
7 reasons prayer feels boring
41 books on prayer
A month in the life of a pray-er