Praying for an Enemy

A month or two back, I posted my thoughts about “Jesus’s Toughest Commandment,” and that’s something I’m still thinking about. I’ve even assigned the task of praying for an enemy to the protagonist of my soon-to-be published novel, When Love Won’t Wait.

Here’s the relevant excerpt.

Ever since the previous month’s totally unproductive meeting about taking a simple, no-cost security measure—had any of my meetings with the Elders ever been productive?—I avoided Bro McKenny as much as possible.

Avoided? Yes. But that didn’t give me the freedom to pray against him the way Jerry Cruncher accused his wife of doing in A Tale of Two Cities.

Neither did it permit me to remain neutral. Since Jesus not only taught us to pray for our enemies, He set the perfect example not only by  praying for the soldiers crucifying Him, but by asking God to forgive them.

If I’d been in His position, I couldn’t have done that. But at least I recently felt compelled to start praying for Bro McKenny. And not just for God to soften his heart, but to make him more recognizable as a Christian.

So far, I hadn’t noted any changes. Why did God’s timetable have to differ so much from mine? Or had Bro simply been resisting the Holy Spirit?

Lord, forgive me. That’s exactly the wrong attitude on my part. Please forgive him for everything he’s said or done to me and help him in whatever ways he needs help. Thanks bunches. Amen!

If you read the previous article, you may recall that I’ve chosen to pray for someone I don’t know personally and will probably never meet. Someone who would probably have no interest in meeting me.

Yet I have too many reasons to consider her not just my enemy, but America’s.

The Bible advises us to be quick to listen and slow to speak. This woman appears to be slow to listen and quick to speak, and I can’t think of a single thing she’s said or done that I haven’t strongly disagreed with.

Knowing how to pray for her has proven to be very much like my character’s problem in praying for Bro McKenny.

I’m so tempted to say, “Lord, please stop her before she causes any more trouble.” Or “Please help her to grow up.” Or “Can’t You do something to make her a nicer person?”

And those things are “exactly the wrong attitude on my part.” It’s easy to pray that God will help me have a more loving attitude towards her, but–no matter how appropriate that is–it’s a prayer for me rather than for her.

What do I pray that doesn’t simply reflect my disapproval of her?

Would it be appropriate to pray, “Lord, you know her. Please help her to become the person You want her to become…”? Perhaps. But what do I pray after that? “Not my will but Yours” is always an appropriate ending, yet it leaves me feeling that I haven’t truly prayed for this individual.

I believe one purpose of prayer is to more closely align our attitudes with God’s will. God loves this lady–just as much as He loves you and me. It probably grieves Him to see the way she typically behaves.

After several months of trying to pray the best way for her, I can’t say she appears to be any “better.”

But do you know what? I’m not so quick to look at the news for another article about her shortcomings. And when I see one, I wonder what has made her the way she is.

This problem is something I go back and forth on, and I would honestly appreciate your suggestions about the best way to pray for her. Thank you in advance for leaving a comment.

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

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Jesus’s Toughest Commandment

Jesus’s Toughest Commandment

Some years ago I wrote a song called “(If Christ Had Not Been) Born a Baby.” The first stanza goes like this:

If Christ had not been born a baby,
Fully human and yet still fully God;
Had He not lived and died as a man,
Then how would God know what we feel?

Whenever I sing that at our church’s weekly nursing home ministry, I invariably introduce it by saying that Jesus isn’t just my Savior, but my role model. Since He was the only perfect person ever to live on earth, that makes sense, doesn’t it? If I pattern my life after Jesus’s–if I say and do the kinds of things He said and did–how can I go wrong?

Forgive me for breaking out laughing. Please. It’s just that I’m all too aware of my shortcomings and the many ways I fail to live as godly a life as I want to live. The apostle Paul knew what he was talking about when he said something to this effect:

I do the things I mean to keep from doing, and I fail to do the things I intend to do.

That describes me to at T at times, and–if I’m not being too presumptuous–it probably describes all Christians. No wonder people often describe us as hypocrites. They look at the way Christ lived and see how far each of us misses the mark by comparison.

Christianity isn’t a religion. It doesn’t have a strict set of rules and regulations. It’s a relationship with God through faith in Jesus as our Lord and Savior. And there’s really only one two-part rule:

Love the Lord your God, and love your neighbor as yourself.

Jesus even gave us the parable of the Good Samaritan to illustrate the fact that everyone we have contact with is our neighbor. But He took it a step further by telling us to love our enemies.

Love our enemies? How impossible does that sound!

I don’t really have any personal enemies. Or, if I do, they simply avoid me rather than demonstrating their hostility. As a true conservative, however, I look at the far left and cringe at the things those people stand for. Not to mention the things they’re doing to try to destroy this country.

If I have enemies, it’s those people. Shouldn’t I have the right to hate them?

Hmm. Not if I pay close enough attention to Jesus’s words on the cross when He prayed for the Romans who were crucifying him:

Forgive them, Father, for they don’t  know what they’re doing.

Whoops! If Jesus could do that, what’s my excuse?

But, Lord, Jesus was still God even though He was also human.

Then a still small voice whispers in my ear. “What about Stephen, who was martyred for his faith and for preaching the Gospel? He was only human and he prayed the same prayer Jesus did while being stoned to death.”

Okay, Lord, Jesus really does want us to love our enemies as well as our friends. But it’s tough! The very people I know I’m not supposed to hate really anger me at times–most of the time, in fact. How can I love them when I don’t even know them, anyhow? I just know I keep seeing them do the very things I disapprove of so much.

That same still small voice whispers back, “Start with the one who angers you the most. Pray for him or her on a regular basis. Seek to understand that person and pray for me to accomplish good in and through that person’s life.”

I chose someone–who it is is between me and God–and started praying. Praying sincerely on that person’s behalf is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do as Christian. But I believe it’s also going to be one of the most fulfilling.

Do you have someone you consider an enemy? Perhaps someone who’s extra-hard to get along with, but who you must see and perhaps work with on a regular basis. Try praying for that person.

Jesus did it. Stephen did it. And I’m doing my best to do it. Give it a try.

Don’t be disappointed if it doesn’t change the person you’re praying for, however. But don’t be too shocked if it changes YOU.

Your comments are welcome.

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

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Loving Other People (part two)

If you missed Sunday’s post on “Loving Other People,” you might want to read it before reading this one. However, today’s post will still make sense if you don’t.

I want to tell you a true story. While I doubt seriously that anyone from that part of my past life will see this, I’ll  change the names just in case.

This happened during the mid-seventies in a small city in Maryland. I had started working in an office several months before and had established a routine that seemed to work for me.

Then Annie came to work at the same place, doing the same job I was doing. I patiently explained how I’d been doing things, aware that I would be grateful if someone had done that for me when I started there. But she seemed totally disinterested in my established routine. She was more interested in socializing with the office manager.

The two of them did have something important in common, and as time passed by, she had become his obvious favorite. She could do nothing wrong and–at times, anyhow–it seemed as if I could do nothing right.

What made this whole problem more complicated is the fact that Annie’s and my actual supervisor was a kindly fellow who wasn’t actually located in our office. But we were still under the office manager’s authority since it was his space we were using.

I knew that our job involved a certain amount of out-of-the-office contact with our clients, but the office manager wouldn’t approve of our going out. So I did the logical–and highly unfortunate–thing and asked our supervisor for his help.

He sent a message to the office manager reminding him that we needed to get out periodically. And the manager immediately came to me in a huff. “You’ve been talking to Henry, haven’t you?”

I couldn’t very well deny it.

So he said, “Fine. Annie will go out and you will stay in.” Talk about fairness…

My relationship with Annie was already bad enough. She had no respect for me whatsoever, and things continued to go downhill.

I did the only thing I could do. Something that went against everything I felt like doing. But what I felt God wanted me to do.

I started praying for Annie. Not that she would change. Not that I would learn to accept her ways. But simply that God would work in her life. Not easy when she was so brusque that she came in the men’s room one day to tell me I had a phone call!

Not long after that, they moved our desks upstairs, which was actually part of the area director’s domain. Annie and I had a big blowout argument that day and–would you believe it?–she and I became friends. Or as close to friends as dogs and cats are apt to become.

Definitely not the way I’d expected God to answer my prayer for Annie, but it was an answer nonetheless. And it’s something that continues to remind me to this day that I can learn to love the most unlovable of people if I make God part of the equation.

The central part.

Do you have someone who bugs the daylights out of you? Maybe it’s time to start praying for that person. But remember this. You’re not praying for that person to become wonderful, but for God to do whatever He chooses to in that person’s life.

Comments? I’d love to hear ’em.

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I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” is only one of my two blogs. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on  “As I Come Singing.” Check it out HERE if you’re interested.  Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

If you enjoy my writing, you’ll find a number of things to read on my website. Also music to listen to and music-related videos to watch.

My newest novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Family Christian Stores. Go HERE for links to those places.

Tentative-Front-Cover

Best regards,
Roger

Loving Other People

The Bible teaches us to love other people as we love ourselves. A wonderful thing to do, most of us would agree. After all, isn’t love a matter of wanting what’s best for the other person and being willing to sacrifice to make sure that happens?

But what if what’s best for the other person costs us something? Maybe even a lot. Shouldn’t we be free from having to love the other person that much if he or she is selfish and doesn’t want what’s best for us in return? How fair would that be if both parties in a relationship don’t want what’s best for the other equally?

The Bible also teaches us to love our enemies. You mean God wants us to sacrifice to provide what’s best for them when they have no concern whatsoever about our welfare? How unfair!

Hmm. Then again, look at Jesus. How he suffered that indescribably hideous death on a Roman cross to provide forgiveness for all who accept His free gift. That’s love beyond the call of duty, if you ask me.

Yet it’s what Jesus came to earth to do. And even while He was hanging on the cross, He forgave the soldiers who were crucifying Him. And they weren’t even sorry for what they were doing!

Maybe we should all take a fresh look at love. Do we love other people enough to put their needs and interests ahead of our own–and forgive them when they wrong us, even if they don’t think they’ve done anything wrong and are no way sorry for what they’ve done?

Hmm. Tall order. Humanly impossible. But the Bible says that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. We’ll never be able to love as perfectly as God loves, but it sounds like Christ can enable us to do a better–a more Godly–job of it.

How do you feel about your enemies? Will you let God help you love them?

And what about the people you already love? Will you let Him help you love them more perfectly–less selfishly, more sacrificially?

I’d love to hear what you think. Do you know someone you couldn’t love if your life depended on it?

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I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” is only one of my two blogs. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on  “As I Come Singing.” Check it out HERE if you’re interested.  Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

If you enjoy my writing, you’ll find a number of things to read on my website.  Also music to listen to and music-related videos to watch.

My newest novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Family Christian Stores. Go HERE for links to those places.
Tentative-Front-Cover

Best regards,
Roger