Praying for difficult people might sound like a contradiction. It’s not necessarily people who are difficult but the evil that works (or attempts to work) through them.
But we do find ourselves in challenging situations facing unhealthy attitudes at times. So how do we pray for someone we just don’t feel like praying for?
Ah, for difficult people, we pray twice as much
Probably not the answer most of us were hoping for, but the beauty in it is that in giving we receive. In pardoning we are pardoned. The measure of mercy we show to others is the measure of mercy that will be shown to us.
When we pray for difficult people, we draw closer to God because we grapple with… and find… something deeper in our hearts.
Praying for People Who Hurt Us
Praying for someone who treats us badly or who seems undeserving of prayer is not about showing pity or being the “better person.” It’s about spiritual maturity and growth. If we skip that person in our prayers, even though our heart tells us that’s who needs it most, we are skipping out on a lesson in love. In fact, we could even begin harboring secret prayer motives.
When Peter asked Jesus how many times we must forgive someone who has sinned against us, he was thinking that maybe seven times was enough. Jesus answers him, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times” (Matt. 18:22).
Power of Prayer in Challenging Situations
I just read an amazing story about Immaculee Ilibagiza, who hid for 91 days in a pastor’s bathroom with seven other women during the Rwanda Genocides. As killers lurked around the property and even raided the house, she prayed to God without ceasing.
She admitted that while living in that intense state of fear, she would skip the part of prayer that asks God to forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. How could she mean those words with the threat of rape and death hovering every hour of every day?
But that is the true power of prayer. In a June 2010 interview with Fear.less magazine, Ilibagiza says that after skipping prayers for the killers, she eventually found the strength to say them; the power of prayer helped change her.
“I understood that I was put into this situation to uncover my deepest potential. It was then when I felt a surrendering within me,” she said.
Praying for difficult people can help us grow closer to God as we truly learn the meaning of love your neighbor as yourself.