Praying for people you don’t like

Who do you pray for? When someone asks you to pray for them, do you? Do you only pray for them if it’s someone you love or someone you like? Personally, it’s difficult for me to pray for people I don’t like because generally speaking I try to avoid thinking about people I don’t like. So they rarely cross my mind enough to pray for them on any consistent basis.

Apricot blossoms at sunset

Apricot blossoms at sunset - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is 1 Timothy 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.

Well, that answers the question pretty definitively, I would say. Who should we pray for? Looks like all people to me.

I don’t pray like I should. I used to be pretty good about it, but anymore my thoughts are so jumbled and chaotic anything I try to tell God usually comes out in a messy, rushed statement that doesn’t really mean anything. But when I sit quietly, I like praying. One of the reasons I love my hour-long commute every morning is that it provides me with time to talk with God, although I get distracted pretty easily.

But the people I pray for are generally people I would talk to. The people I remember to pray for are my friends. But what about my enemies? What about casual acquaintances? What about some guy on the street? Don’t they fall into the category of “all people”?

Yes, they do.

Prayer was never meant to be a popularity contest. We’re supposed to pray for everyone whether we like them or not, whether we know them or not. And I’m not talking about the childish “God please help everyone” types of prayers. Prayers that generic never make a difference. We have to be specific.

When we pray, we need to have a specific request in mind. Much like the verse says, we need to ask God to help them, we need to intercede on their behalf, and we need to tell God how annoying they are and that it’s a real pain to have to pray for someone we wouldn’t even talk to face to face.

Is that what it says?

No. We are supposed to be thankful for them.

Ugh. Really? I posted yesterday about dealing with difficult people. So according to this verse, that means I need to not only be patient and pray for the difficult people in my life but I also need to be thankful for them? Is God serious?

Why? What does it matter if I don’t pray for people I don’t like? Surely someone likes them enough to pray for them. Right? Am I the only one who ever feels that way?

Here’s the problem with that kind of thinking: it’s pride.

It’s really hard to hate someone you’re praying for. Even if that person is a villain, someone who has hurt you repeatedly, someone you would never spend time with, if you are genuinely praying for that person, even though you don’t like them, even though you wouldn’t speak to them, you will have a hard time hating them. If you pray for them, you love them. It just happens.

So maybe that’s our hesitation to pray for people we don’t like: we don’t want to love them.

We don’t want to love people who hurt us. We don’t want to love people who use us. We don’t want to love people who irritate us.

But that’s not the way we’re supposed to live.

I’m not saying you need to jump into that person’s life and get involved in their issues. Actually, that’s a terrible idea because most likely they’ll pull you down into their problems. Prayer doesn’t require that. Prayer only requires that you love them enough to ask God to help them. Let God sort it out. There’s nothing you can do anyway that will change someone’s heart anyway.

So the next time you encounter a difficult person, pray for them. Whatever it is about them that bothers you, pray about it. Tell God exactly what you’re thinking, and He will respond. I promise. And then you’ll watch a miracle happen, not that God changes the person who bothers you … but that He changes you from someone too proud to pray for an enemy to someone who loves unconditionally.

So maybe that’s why we should be thankful for difficult people.

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