Here’s what happened:
I made this list of goals back in December, and back in December I knew EXACTLY who I didn’t like enough to subject them to daily prayers. However, as March came to a close and I began to think about who I should pray for, I had this awful realization that I don’t like so many people in my life that I could probably pray for A DIFFERENT PERSON EVERY DAY.
So that’s what I started doing. I started looking a day or two ahead and if I was going to encounter someone who made me want to slam my head against a wall, I’d drop to my knees in prayer instead. Sometimes I’d pray for someone and the next day be back to wishing a semi truck would fall out of the sky and onto their foot (not their head, just their foot) and so I would pray for them a second day.
But a week or so ago I found myself praying for one person, and I can’t stop praying for them because every time I even THINK about them my blood starts to boil.
Even though I still have a week left in the month, I wanted to share with you what I’ve learned this month.
- Praying for people you don’t like is really about yourself.
It wasn’t too long before the prayers started revealing the blackness of my heart, and I began to pray not just for them but for myself, that I would be transformed and given new eyes to see them. Who we don’t like and why we don’t like them says a lot about us.
- Praying for people you don’t like has to be about them.
I just wrote about how praying for other people takes a turn inward, but part of the way I have noticed my heart changing towards the person I’m praying for is that I pray only for them. For the first few days it kept coming back to me, but now I pray for their health, telling God everything I have known them to struggle with in all areas of their life. I ask God to bless their ministry, and share with him what good I can see coming from what they do.
- Praying for people you don’t like has to be honest.
One of the people I prayed for is in charge of a church. I started to say “God, expand their opportunities for ministry…” and then I had to say “NO! That’s a lie! Don’t give them ANY opportunities because they suck!” and I crawled my way through that prayer, being candid about what I REALLY wanted for them (semi truck on the foot, remember?) and asking him to help me find the honest sentiments I could pray. I couldn’t ask for God to expand their ministry, but I could ask him to help them be responsible with what they have been given and that they would be responsive to the moving of the Holy Spirit. God already knows I don’t like them because I think he reads my blog and knows I’m praying for people I don’t like.. so there’s no point in lying and trying to be more holy than I am. I’m not holy and I really don’t like these people and God likes it when I am honest with him.
- Praying for people you don’t like has to have a direction.
When I was praying for people I didn’t like, I picked people I would have to see and then I added an action. One person, I knew I would ask them about their fears. I got dinner with another person and refused to tell anyone the details. But mostly, my action is just letting go. Taking my frustrations, irritations and judgments to God. Working through them a bit, and when I have sufficiently been convicted about the eyesore of my own plank, praying as big as I can without lying and moving on. Some days it’s been like one intense prayer boot camp, helping me completely get over my stupid grudges and stuff. Other days I’ve prayed two days in a row and stopped it at that because I remembered someone I don’t like more than them. And now, I am praying every day, trusting that my small baby steps towards liberation are helping the burden of dislike become lighter as each prayer is lifted up.
But man. The whole thing is humbling. I want to pray blood-thirsty, mean, firey prayers about them and am trusting in the upside-down nature of the Kingdom, that loving your enemies, doing good to those who hate you, blessing those who curse you and praying for those who mistreat you is a far better plan of action than renting a semi truck and a crane and ultimately ended up in jail for having absolutely no aim or skill at dropping a large vehicle on someone’s foot.
I challenge you to take a day, a week or a month to pray for those you cannot stand and have to encounter. It’s not a miracle, and it doesn’t make them less frustrating but the magic of prayer is that the more you look to God, the more you become aligned with him.