FaithPrayers Newsletter – October/November 2014
“Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”
Jesus said that, and in their own ways many great thinkers have also said it. But to me, the fact that Jesus said it so clearly makes it carry special meaning.
I wonder if we could also say:
“Pray about others as you would have others pray about you.”
What would that mean?
I have heard people pray that someone would crash and burn so that they could learn a lesson. That they would lose their income so they would learn to “depend” on God. That if God wanted to take them into suffering that he would. Ouch! Would any of us want someone to pray such a thing about us? Would we be aghast to find out that in fact they had? Yet sometimes I have heard the most upsetting prayers I can imagine. “Bring this against them…” “cause them to fail in their endeavor…”.
I wonder… At this time of Thanksgiving, a time of love and gratitude to the Giver of all things, what if we decided to stop “hating” in our prayers. To stop assuming we knew all about what was best for another person. That we knew their road.
There’s another scripture that may be just as powerful for us…
“Give, and by the measure you give, it will be given unto you.” People often use that to talk or preach about giving money, and how they will get money back, but in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 6:38), the actual context is about judging others. And it was Jesus who made the statement. And again, many great teachers have also taught it — what we do and say may come back on us — so we would do well to be careful. How we treat others just may be how we end up getting treated someplace along the way. There have been times in my life where I’ve found this fact a hard thing to accept and to live by. A hard lesson to absorb — but nevertheless, I believe, a true one.
If someone is engaging in hurtful and sinful behavior then yes, we do need to pray that they be stopped, even if that’s not what they want at the moment. A good prayer for the Wall Street executive who is bilking people out of their life savings would be that he or she be stopped. The man hitting his wife should be stopped. The person hurling racist slurs should be stopped. And that’s the right way to pray — that they are stopped. It’s what I would want prayed for me… That I would stop the hitting, stop the comments, stop the greed. But still, and I say this gently and not for sure that I can always do it, it’s probably best to pray even those prayers in just the way we would want them prayed for us were we engaging in the adultery or the abuse or the cheating.
I can only say that if something difficult needed to be prayed regarding me because I was off-track, I would hope that the people praying would turn each of those sorts of prayers around, as in: “I pray you would spare her from suffering and show her what You need to without that.” Or, “I pray that you would teach her to depend on you without her suffering loss.”
Why not pray that way, instead?
Why indeed? Is there some reason we would rather not admit to that’s behind our reticence? Why we can’t pray the positive thing? The helpful thing only? The blessing thing. In other words, the thing we would want prayed about ourselves.
It can be a hard thought — this idea of praying as we would want to be prayed for. Only God can supply the grace to pray that way.
I don’t think God hears the hating prayers that come from a mean spirit. He does hear the prayers of the person who hates sin, but certainly not the sinner. But, even though God may not be listening to those mean or abusive prayers, the words are still put out there, and words from people hurt. They can hang in the air.
I don’t think God directly answers those hating prayers. And that is a lot to be thankful for. A truly unique and important thing to be thankful for, at this time of year and always.
Wishing you and yours a beautiful and treasured Thanksgiving…
Mary Ann Offenstein
Founder and Director of Operations
FaithPrayers National Prayer Line
Fifth in a series of articles about prayer