On the way to preschool drop-off the other day, I was working on abbreviated morning prayers with Henry and Isabel. When it’s just the three of us in the car, I enjoy the extra quiet to talk to “the little’s” (as we call them) about the importance of prayer and to get them in the habit of offering things up to God.
That morning, as we ambled down the road, I gave Henry some hints about who to pray for. He mentioned some aunts and uncles (all of whom he asked for God to send a baby, so watch out everyone!). And he prayed for Gramma and Papa in the upcoming season of chemotherapy for my mom.
“Amen,” said Henry.
“And let’s pray for Buelo,” I said, reminding him to include Paul’s dad in the list.
“What’s wrong with Buelo,” asked Henry.
“Nothing,” I said, “it’s just important for us to pray for the people we love.”
“What about the people we don’t love,” asked Henry. “What about them?”
What about them indeed.
I told Henry we could pray for those folks as well. The more I thought about it, as we finished our prayers and said our Hail Mary, I knew how important it really is to pray for the people we don’t love.
In this day and age, very few of us have true enemies. I always think of a “foe” as someone trying to cross your moat and ascend the walls of your castle — we just don’t live with enemies the way so many historically have.
But there are certainly people in this life who can rub us the wrong way. We might not have people trying to steal our land, and the sad reality is we’re usually struggling with people who are on our same team — co-workers, neighbors, relatives. It can be downright embarrassing really, the things that rob us of our peace and joy.
But the truth is, even the saints had people they didn’t like. It’s not to say they didn’t love them with the love of the Lord; they just didn’t enjoy their company. If the saints struggled with this, it’s not a far stretch to think we might feel the same.
While we couldn’t call these antagonists “enemies”, they could easily be included on our Not Top Ten list. And these, as Henry reminded me, are the people we should pray for.
How crazy! How over-the-top! Why should I pray for someone who drives me nuts? Isn’t it better to spend less time thinking of this person, to avoid the near occasion of sin?
We can certainly work hard to keep our mind off our agitations, but in that split-second reminder of the annoying thing they did, send them (lovingly) back to Jesus. In that nanosecond when your brain wants to go there and you know you shouldn’t, ask Jesus to bless that person
What happens, in that moment of self-denial, is that this person actually brings you closer to Jesus. Your own weakness sends you to the foot of the Cross, which Jesus uses to make you stronger in Him.
Some seasons I am at peace with myself and those around me. And some seasons, I’m just not. When I’ve had a negative encounter, when someone has hurt me or said something rude or acted in a way that just didn’t seem kind, I can certainly deal with those issues.
But then, after that, I’m still left holding the bag. I’m still the one who has control over how I deal with the hurts. I can focus on them, on my wounds and agitations and feelings of indignation. Or I can use the spark of the memory to pray, to pray for love and understanding and mostly, just to pray for that person.
Ultimately, the thoughts become a gift. Instead of giving Satan the power to deflate our peace, we are reminded to keep our focus on the Lord, who has more grace and peace and joy in store for us than we could ever imagine.