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:
How Prayers for Another Will Help You
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.
Also, God felt closer. I will never forget that while I explained the breakup to a friend and tried to hide my tears, she told me, "You are one who loves much." Whatever else you believe about God, you and God have love in common.
Set Yourself Up for Healing
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.
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 just 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 one family member or one stranger for blessings on the lost one; it just helps.
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)
Don't Pray for These Right Now
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.
You think prayer will make the phone ring? We often treat prayer as if it were a lever we pull to get divine favors. God is generous, but not an ATM machine. Sometimes prayers are granted and other times not. Rest assured that God hears all prayers. In your pain or loneliness, do your best -- although it's hard -- to thank God even for one tiny thing that you do have rather than what you have lost.
Pray for grace, not vengeance. Hoping that someone disappoints or hurts your loved one just as badly as he or she hurt you is very human, but wishing evil on others poisons your own spirit. Pray for grace, grace, and more grace.
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.
© 2010 Sylvia Sky