What I’m Learning About Prayer, Part II

Jesus talked a whole about loving our enemies. When they are coming to arrest Him, (which, of course, will lead to His execution, and who’s a more obvious enemy than someone who’s going to kill you?), Peter tries to defend his Friend with a sword. Jesus reaches right out and mends the man’s ear with His own hands.

When I compare following Jesus with other religions or philosophies or teachings, it seems this idea is what most separates Jesus from everyone else. And one of the ways Scriptures suggests we love our enemies is by praying for them.

I don’t know if ever in my whole life I’ve had an actual enemy. Maybe in high school a few people who tried to make me very uncomfortable, and certainly there was the English teacher whose sole purpose seemed to make me squirm and question my whole life as much as possible. But enemies? Not really. And now, I have family members whose choices frustrate me, or people with whom I can not figure out how to communicate effectively. The people who first come to mind are the family I nanny for, who seem to suck the joy out of every single afternoon. So there’s that: people who complicate my life and make it more difficult, but that’s the closest I come to enemies.

In The Good and Beautiful Life, James Bryan Smith writes that we should think of enemies in terms of competitors and those who are just plain hard to love. He writes that his wife calls them “irregular people,” which I really like except that it reminds me of an Activia commercial.

So I have been praying–praying through some relationships that I desperately want to improve & praying through this job situation I am so frustrated with.

I thought I was praying for these people, but I have realized I wasn’t at all! I have asked God to give me the right words to say. I have asked God to help me see them through His eyes. I have asked Him to reveal His will and open the right doors and change my heart.

But do you see? All those prayers are prayers for ME! Not one of them is, at its core, for another person. Even though my intentions were good, the prayers themselves have been selfish. I have not been praying for anyone by myself.

So, I asked God to reorient my heart, and now I am attempting to change how I pray.

Instead of praying, “God, give me the words to say to encourage Kelsey well,” I’m saying, “God, give Kelsey peace and joy and the encouragement she needs to tackle this season.”

Instead of praying, “God, help me be patient as I nanny,” I’m praying, “God, fill Prateek’s heart and home with joy and peace.”

Instead of praying, “Lord, help me look to you in my frustration,” I’m praying, “Lord, help Prateek’s family sense Your love and presence.”

This difference is turning out to be huge for me.

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