The world is full of difficult people. I know because I’m one of them. Every person has their own little quirks and idiosyncrasies, and all of us are stubborn in our own way. And sometimes that’s helpful. Other times, it’s frustrating.
So what do you do when you encounter one of those frustrating people who is hard for you to get along with? There are a few responses, of course.
You can avoid them. But that’s not very honest.
You can confront them. But that’s rarely productive, especially since many times the things that bother you about that person may not bother other people. And even if you aren’t alone in your frustrations, direct confrontation (in my experience) usually pushes people away. Maybe that’s what you want, but doesn’t the Bible also say to live at peace with everyone as much as possible? Confrontations rarely result in peace.
So if you can’t avoid them and you shouldn’t confront them, what else is left?
Today’s verse has the answer.
1 Timothy 2:1-2
1 I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. 2 Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.
We’re supposed to pray for everyone, especially the people who frustrate us.
That can be hard for me to grasp sometimes because there’s a part of me that feels like prayer is passive — that I don’t actually do anything, that it’s not going to change anything, that getting up and actually doing something with my own hands would be more productive. But that’s not the case.
Prayer gets a bad wrap sometimes because people make it into this big, pompous show of pious vocabulary. It’s not supposed to be that way.
Well, let me rephrase. If you normally speak in giant, pious-sounding words and flowery language, then maybe your prayers would sound like that. But in general, if you don’t use that sort of language in your everyday speech, why would you use it when you’re praying?
Prayer isn’t for show and it isn’t for showing off how many religious terms we might know. Prayer is simply a conversation with God. Now are some of those religious sounding prayers sincere? I’m sure they are. As I’ve said before, I can’t read people’s hearts. But I’ve heard the difference. I’ve heard studied, religious people pray using churchy words and phrases that make them sound learned . . . . and then I’ve heard a new believer pray, someone who doesn’t know all the right words and all the church jargon. And I can tell you which one seemed more sincere to me.
And don’t get me wrong. I don’t spend prayer time judging other peoples’ prayers. What they have to say to God is up to them and how they say it is up to them. I just know that prayer is something we are all commanded to do, for each other, for our authorities, for our enemies.
The way the world is going, things are going to get way worse before they get better. And we will need each other more than we ever have before. And even though some of us may be harder to get along with than others, we need to focus on what we have in common — and that’s Christ.
So of course pray for the people who don’t know Jesus yet. But pray for the people who have already decided to follow Him. Because life isn’t easy anyway and when you have an enemy gunning for you, it just gets that much harder.
And it doesn’t matter if they’re kings or queens or presidents or senators or governors or teachers or parents or ministry leaders — if they’re your authority, pray for them. Because authorities are there for a reason, and God put them where He put them for a reason. And making decisions without God’s help is always an exercise in futility.
Avoiding people you don’t like isn’t productive because it only delays an inevitable conflict. Confronting people is rarely helpful because it propels the inevitable conflict forward before either person is ready for it. But prayer? Pray first. Pray first for the person you’re frustrated with. And you’ll be surprised. Because God will either change their heart or He’ll change yours. And what previously had been a source of conflict between you can be changed into something that brings God glory.