How to Pray for Someone Who's Hard to Love
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. - 1 Timothy 2:1-4
I was working through my prayer journal one morning and I came to a prompt that made me cringe.
Pray for those that are hard to pray for.
“Wait, can it even say that?” It did, and it needed to. My heart was heavy with disdain for a few people who had hurt my loved ones, caused me stress or pain, or just spread hate and evil to the world. While I often try to block people like that out of my mind, my prayer journal and my Bible were telling me to do something different: pray.
In Paul’s first letter to Timothy, he not only suggests but he urges that believers pray for ALL people, including those that are hard to love, the people who hate us, and even those who are in high positions.
That includes the person who cheated or stole from your family member, the girl who gossiped about you at work, and the opposing party politician who you can’t stand (or whatever personal example of “all” that applies to you.)
Then he doesn’t just say pray as a blanket statement, he goes through each motion of how to do that; with supplications, prayer, intercessions, and thanksgivings. I imagine Paul had to get detailed about how to commune with God on behalf of all people (including those hard to love) because he knew there would be some legalist out there who would begrudgingly say “Oh, I’ll pray for her” when in fact the only prayer that would leave their mouth would be one of judgment and pride. Oh wait, is that just me? You caught me.
Let’s break down what each of those four areas of prayer means:
- Supplication: the action of asking or begging for something earnestly or humbly.
- Prayer: to address or commune with God.
- Intercession: to plead or mediate on behalf of another person.
- Thanksgiving: to express gratitude or give thanks.
If we’re going to do what the Bible teaches, we are to pray for others in a manner that doesn’t include contempt or judgment. Instead, we are called to humbly ask God to help them, commune with God because of them, plead or mediate on their behalf, and express gratitude and give thanks to God for them.
Guys, this stuff isn’t easy, but change doesn’t happen with the easy button. God shows us throughout the Bible that prayer does something extraordinary. It changes outcomes, it changes people, and more importantly, it humbles and changes our own hearts!
As I filled in the name of the person who was hard to love and prayed for them, I felt God lift a weight of hate off my chest. I watched him create empathy in my heart for a person that I didn’t think was possible to feel anything but resentment for. Through prayer, God melted my heart of stone and reminded me that judgment is not mine to give, and that the one productive thing I could do for a person that was hard to love was not to change or correct them but to pray for them.
The Lord tells us through his Word to love our neighbors as ourselves, and one of the ways he helps us do this task (that most of the time seems impossible) is to humbly and lovingly pray for others.
Challenge: Who in your life is hard to pray for? Ask the Holy Spirit to help you with supplication, prayer, intercession, and thanksgiving on behalf of that person today.
With so much love,