How to Pray for Someone Who Has Hurt You—A Lot
...And You're Not Ready to Forgive and Forget
When a man I loved left me, I couldn't hate him -- when you truly love someone you wish him the best. But I felt terribly shocked and wounded. His occasional calls gave me false hopes and only prolonged my grief. Desperate for a way to cope with the burden of my pain, I remembered Luke 6:28: "bless those that curse you; pray for those that mistreat you."
"Praying for him" did not mean begging God to turn back the clock and make everything all right. That didn't help me heal. It meant finding a way to pray that God would bless and keep this man, and light his way. Praying for him took my focus off of myself and balanced things out. I needed it, and he needed it.
Then I looked for advice on how to pray even while the very thought of this person still cut me and I was not yet ready to forgive or forget. It was left to me to humbly offer these suggestions.
- While praying for the one who hurt you, avoid picturing him. Put away the photos. Don't relive memories good or bad. These inspire grief, not prayer. Picture not his face or self but the God in him, the divine spark given to us all. I saw this as a chunk of gold or a wink of light. This helped me see that this man still had goodness in him and needed my prayers.
- Don't pray for this person to change, or for their conversion. These things are in God's hands and/or in the hands of the individual. Prayer is powerful but it does not make the phone ring.
- Pray for your own understanding. Praying for my loved one broke up my constant pleading and bargaining with God and let God get a word in edgewise. He informed me: "This person is in the dark, and must find his own way out. You cannot help him." This was painful to hear, but now I knew better what to pray for.
- Be busy while you pray. Lying awake at night or kneeling alone in a chapel will only summon up memories, anger, and sobs that might be natural but keep your wound from healing. Sweep the sidewalk, take a walk with a camera, practice free-throws with the children. Just get active, and then pray, when you think of it, "God, please bless him (or her)," or "Help me understand."
- Keep these prayers short and simple. "God, please protect her," "God, please help him quit drinking," "Dear God, let him find peace" -- those are sufficient.
- Get "above" it. Imagine you are viewing the earth from above, as if it were a dollhouse with the roof cut away. There you are, and, miles away, there he (or she) is, perhaps watching TV, working, sleeping, dating someone else. From this distance you both look a lot like the rest of humanity. This perspective encourages an open heart and compassion so you can stand to ask for blessings on the person whose behavior tempts you to hate.
- Pray with just one other person. Grief and resentment are natural but keep you spiritually isolated. Ask one person to pray with you. (Prayer circles do not seem to work for this; you get sympathy, but later when you are alone, the pain returns in full force.) It doesn't matter if you pray with a family member or a stranger for blessings on the lost one; it just helps.
- Don't "expect a miracle." Your expectations -- especially when you are grieving or resentful -- might not line up with God's will or what is best for you or another. To expect something is to be passive, a taker. Pray for a miracle, but don't "expect" it.
Yes, You Have a Future
"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." -Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
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