Prayer Tip: Praying for your enemies

While I’m waiting on the next thing the Spirit puts on my heart to write, I decided as part of this blog, I will post tips along the way.  This past Sunday my pastor was preaching about loving thy enemy and praying for them.  I heard one of my fellow church members saying, “It’s hard.  I can’t do it.”  And, it IS hard.  It’s really hard when someone is being cruel to you, stealing from you or worse, to like them, pray for them and let alone love them.  I think loving them comes from going deeper in your relationship with the Lord.  But, I think I have found a place to  break through and pray sincerely for our enemies.

Admittedly, I used to pray through gritted teeth.  And, honestly, if that’s the only way you can right now, I say do it.  Be obedient to the Lord.  Then, ask him to help you pray more intentionally for whomever it is you are at odds with at the time; but, your goal should be to get from obedient to a place of sincerity.  Why?  It’s powerful.   James 5:16 (NIV) says, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”  You want something to change in your situation?  Get intentional.

First, let’s look at the first part of that verse.  It’s the key to making your prayers impactful.  Notice it says “righteous”.  Obviously, you, yourself, need to be aligned and in good standing with the Lord.  But, you also need a sincere mindset.  The way I can get there in that sincere place with that aligned mindset is finding some common ground – so to speak – with the Lord.  My common ground, my place of understanding, is as a parent.  He is our Father, which means… He is their Father, too.  I’m a mother.  I learn a lot about His nature through being a parent.  So, I try to think about it from that standpoint.  This enemy of mine is now a wayward child.  Maybe you, too, have a wayward child.  Pray what you want prayed over yours.  Become in your mind their parent.  Let it move you.  Maybe you don’t and you are just trying to raise yours up well.  What help do you want from the Lord to keep them on the straight and narrow?  Pray that.  Not a parent?  What are you?  Are you person with a friend who makes bad decisions?  Pray to that.  Got a wayward sibling or relative?  Yes, actually, we ALL do.  We are all, again,  His children – even them – pray for your enemy  a.k.a. your wayward sibling in Christ.  You see what I’m saying?  Change your position from an enemy to one of compassion and/or sympathy.  It changes your heart.  If you really allow yourself to go there, to sit in that new position,  you can be moved and emotionally/spiritually burdened to pray for them out of compassion.  Bottom line:  get to a place of hating the sin not the sinner.

Wanna double down?  Put yourself in their shoes.

whoa-memeLet it overheat.  Go there.

What hurt is driving their behavior towards you?  ‘Cause, you know, hurting people hurt people.  There is some pain in their lives that is the root for a lot of their undesirable behavior.  In fact, if you really listen to what they say to you, they’ve probably given you either overt or subtle clues as to their issue with you.   And, just to be really real here, if you think about it, you probably have some deeply rooted pain that spurns a lot of your not-so-great behavior.  What healing do you need?  Maybe they need that as well.

Let me pause here and say that there are some situations where you just are a convenient target.  As someone who has survived and thrived after abusive situations, let me say this loud and clear:  IT’S ALL ON THEM.  YOU DO NOT DESERVE ABUSE… EVER… PERIOD!  Take care of yourself.  Get away.  Get help.  Get healed.  I can say at this point in my life, I have no animosity towards those people in my life.  I see their brokenness.  I have pity for them.  I pray for their healing and wholeness and wish them well.  I forgive them, but I take no ownership in their treatment of me.  Everyone is called to exercise self-control.  God did NOT put me on earth to be a physical, verbal or emotional punching bag for someone else.

Now, for the final part… what you pray must be righteous and in line with His Will.  You can’t pray bad stuff over people.  Imagine a titanium ceiling above your head.  Those prayers won’t break through that sucker.  And, in some cases, that stuff finds its way back to you.  Yikes!  Do you still want to pray that?  He won’t hear those types of prayers or if He does, that answer is going to be either a very resounding “NO!” or it’s going to be an obvious silence – you know the one.  The one that comes with side eye.  Or… the mom face… the one I give my kid or pretty much anyone who asks me something they already know the answer to.  Let me see if I can give you a visual…

mom-side-eye2Yeah… this one.  You know better than that.  Really?!?

I should probably stop and tell you, there will be a forthcoming post about my “quirks” and my sense of humor and the general random weirdness or silliness that might find its way here and what the Lord said to me about it.  It actually was very loving and validating and empowering.  You’ll get a feel for my voice and what I want to do on this blog… laugh for instance… and maybe it will help other members of my “square peg in a round hole” tribe.  Shout out to you folks, by the way.  You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) and loved.

Getting back to my message…  pray righteously… pray generously.  Wait… what?  Yes, pray generously as in “Father God, I pray Your best for ___ in Jesus’ name, Amen.”  Why would you want to do that? Because once that Jesus sized hole in their lives is filled with His best – Jesus – they’re not going to want to keep on with you.  When you are really filled with love, joy and with that peace that surpasses understanding, you take away the hold some offenses have over you.  They seem not to be so important.  Pray that they have a hunger for the Lord.  And, do you seriously think His best is to let them get away with hurting you or to give them more ammo to come at you.  NO!  God wants them healed and doing His Will and busy working and living for His Kingdom.  He wants them to be good stewards which means loving THEIR enemies – you.  But, then again, maybe you won’t be enemies anymore by then… I’m going to leave that right there and let you ponder it.

Now… one little caveat…  praying like this does things.  You’re wanting it to right a wrong, but don’t be surprised if you aren’t righted yourself.  (Proverbs 3:12)  I’m speaking from experience here. I’ve never really been able to escape praying over my complaint list without Jesus saying “Well, what about you?”  Well, um… what had happened was… See, there’s two sides to the story and the truth is somewhere in the middle.  Each person has their own view of the conflict and Jesus knows all the details!

Speaking of conflict… You are not only dealing with an issue on an earthly level, you are daily dealing with very real spiritual warfare.  There is one who LOVES to stir up strife, confusion and discontent while trying to stay hidden to carry out his daily mission to kill, steal and destroy (John 10:10a).  While you’re on your knees praying for your earthly enemy, remember to rebuke that spiritual one!.

Praying like this deepens your faith, strengthens your walk and releases blessings.  Praying for your enemies is a little radical.  It’s a little crazy.  It’s a little unexpected, but it’s a lot like Jesus and isn’t that sort of our aim?  To be more like him?

Well, that’s my tip… or maybe this IS that thing I was waiting on.  I’m not sure.  One can never tell with these things.  Still getting the hang of this. If it is, I like what you did there, Lord.  I hope this was helpful, reader.

May God bless you and keep you.

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Don’t Be Afraid to Go Deep with the Lord

You’ll notice there is a considerable gap in postings here.  It’s not that I haven’t wanted to write.  I’ve desperately wanted to.  I’ve kept notes or ideas stored up in the back of my head for awhile.  Only, I felt the Lord was telling me to wait.  It wasn’t the content, it was the timing.  Just in the last days have I been given the go ahead.  I trust Him and His plans and so, this is pretty much how this is going to go.  I will post at what He tells me to and when.

Today’s post has been brewing for about a week.  It came from me preparing for a conversation with a friend on a personal matter.  And, as per usual, as the thoughts began flowing, so began the words from my mouth.  This is the new weird normal for my kids hearing mom mumbling to herself.  I’m blessed that it just is with them and they leave me to it.  Usually this “quirk”, these utterances end up being a blessing to me.  I’ve breathed life into myself – like a pep talk – over situations or sometimes, I end up saying something I really needed to hear.  When these things happen, I am smart enough to know that they aren’t from me.  And, I know this sounds crazy, but this really is sort of the new normal since really pursuing a relationship with the Lord.  We talk… often… everyday… even when I think I’m just talking out loud to myself.  Beautiful things come from these conversations.  And, lately, I feel like they are tied to my Purpose.  I’m excited to see how this unfolds.  What a humbling privilege!

Anyway, back to the topic!  The conversation was about me wanting to somehow tell my friend to take all opinions about her situation and place them before the Lord for direction and confirmation, to intentionally pursue Him and His direction because my “gut”, my inner Jiminy Cricket (aka the Holy Spirit) was telling me the opposite of what she was hearing.  So, why not place it before Him to remove all confusion?  With this flow of thought I heard myself say “Don’t be afraid to go deep with the Lord.  He won’t let you drown.”  That’s good and while I’m witty, I know that was the Lord speaking.  And, it is so true.  There is scripture to back it up.  He has shown me a few examples since that day and I would love to share them with you with the hopes of encouraging you into pursuing a relationship with Him, one He desires to have with you whether you are on the fence, a baby Christian or a long time walker.  We can always continue to deepen our relationship with Him.

So, our first example is in Exodus 14 starting with verse 15.  I’m intentionally not going to put all the scripture here because I really want you to read it for yourself.  And don’t just read a verse.  Read the chapter.  Read the book.  If you’ve read it before, read it again.  Get the full picture.  Moses is leading the Israelites out of Egypt with Pharaoh and his army in hot pursuit.  We all know the story, but we are going to look at it through the lens of faith.  Can you imagine that?  Being chased at an army with no discernible way to go and then being asked to walk through the middle of the sea?  Sure, self-preservation would having you hauling through, but wouldn’t it be a little scary looking up seeing just walls water on either side not entirely sure how long that would last or what would be waiting for you on the other side?  But they stepped through on faith.  This is what they’d been praying for – for their God to come and save them from the oppressive life they had been living.  I’m guessing it probably wasn’t what they pictured and it hardly ever is – His ways are not our ways – but, He saw them safely through.  THEY weren’t swept away.  No, they were strengthened through that experience.  That instance bolstered them, put praise on their lips and had them singing.  There have a been quite a few times He has come through for me in an unexpected way (when I could see no way at all) that had me singing and dancing when it was all said and done.

Our next example is Jonah.  Now, this is an interesting (and kind of funny) example.  Jonah is running from God.  He knows His plans, has a pretty good idea what He’s going to do and wants no part of it.  God said “Go to Ninevah.”  Jonah went the opposite direction.  I’m seriously giggling about this only because I can sympathize with poor Jonah.  The Ninevites don’t have a good reputation for good reason.  I’ve been asked a time or two to do what I would consider the unthinkable or at least, the unpalatable and I, too, in my life have run from God – which is just plain silly because where are you gonna go?  All you are going to do is run right straight into Him – which Jonah ultimately did.  So Jonah is fleeing on a ship to Tarshish.  God is simply not having it and causes a violent storm to come upon the sea that is threatening to destroy the ship.  Jonah is sleeping soundly while chaos is breaking loose.  The crew has tried praying to their gods, throwing off cargo and in an attempt to figure out what is going on, casts lots to figure out who is the cause of this.  Guess who it was.  You can’t run and you can’t hide. So after being approached, he relents.  He is at fault and tells them to toss him overboard to remedy the situation.  Perhaps he resolved himself to the fact that this was a just punishment… but God (one of my favorite sayings)… in His infinite mercy, God sends a great fish to swallow him.  He doesn’t even let us drown when we make mistakes or try to run because we are scared!  Granted the process for repentance feels probably about as good as sitting in a stinky fish belly, but it gets results.  Jonah was grateful for being saved and offered up praise.  Now, I know, Jonah ends with him being a little salty about the Ninevites and their forgiveness, but I still believe Jonah’s faith grew from that situation.  He certainly learned Who has the final say and a little something about His nature.  But, I’d like to also believe that he came to understand, with time, what God was doing – showing the Ninevites the same mercy He showed Jonah (and us).

I could make this a really long post with other examples, but I’ll leave that to you and end with Jesus.  I could tell you about the storm that arose while he was sleeping down in the boat that frightened his disciples and how he calmed the storm with simple, but powerful words – how mighty is our Lord! – definitely not drowning on that boat!  (Mark 4:35-41); but, instead, we’ll talk about Peter.  You know the story (Matthew 14:22-33).  You’ve seen the bumper sticker:

ff31-blog

This one is still so amazing to me.  Peter and the other disciples have been sent across the lake while Jesus remains behind to pray.  They are being obedient to the Lord.  They soon find themselves in trouble as a strong wind has stirred up the waves.  They look up to see Jesus walking on the water towards them.  Thinking they’d seen a ghost, Peter asked the Lord if it’s really him to tell him to come out to him on the water.  Jesus obliges.  And Peter, with great faith, steps out of the boat and walks towards Jesus.  In what was probably a test of faith and maybe an attack (sometimes these things happen simultaneously and why wouldn’t the devil want to shake Peter up and keep him down and doubtful in what he could do in Christ?), Peter lost sight of the Lord and got distracted by the problems and found himself going under (as we all do at times).  He cries out to the Lord and Jesus pulls him out.  So many beautiful things happened here.  Peter got a glimpse of what could be done.  Peter learned about the strength of faith.  How can you not recognize and be in awe of your Lord in that moment? And, he learned that when he needed the Lord, he need only to call and he would answer.  This is a truth I’m just so grateful for.  Every. Single. Time.

So, we see the continuous symbol and use of deep water.  Why?  I think it’s because it so intimidating and beautiful and scary and mysterious.  And isn’t that such a perfect vehicle to describe faith and at times, God’s love for us?  It’s scary to step out on it.  We’re afraid of the unknown whether we like to admit it or not.  But, He loves us.  He cares deeply for us.  He knows everything that’s going to happen to us and since the very beginning, He has left nothing to chance.  He has plans to prosper us, to give us a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11).  Sometimes, we don’t get to know every detail.  Sometimes, we’re not even sure what the plan is.  Sometimes, we only get to see a few feet at a time.  But He wants us to be obedient and to trust Him.  It’s scary.  It’s a process.  But it is for our own good.  We’re meant to do more than just survive each day until He calls us home.  There is a purpose for your being here.

My faith has grown because I prayed and asked Him to help me with it.  And it was situations like these (stepping out of faith, doing the unthinkable, believing He could do the impossible) that did just that.  I was not initially a hopeful person.  Life had burned me in the trust department a time or two… misplaced trust to be fair, but burned, nonetheless.  And I considered myself to be very logical, so asking me to see, believe or do the impossible was a tall order without His help.  But, He did.  And I have grown and my relationship and faith and hope and love and trust and a slew of other things have only deepened because of it.  And I am so grateful for every mercy He has shown me, every ounce of patience, forgiveness, love and it makes me want to sing and praise and be this willing vessel for His messages.  It makes me want to spread His love and it has me here wanting to tell you about it and encourage you to take that step out of the boat.  Why?  Because He never lets me drown and He won’t let you either.  He crazy loves us that much!  Pursue a relationship with Him and deepen it.  It’s worth it.  I hope this blessed you.  Until next time…