When I decided to undertake the spiritual exercise 10 People to Pray for to Start Changing the World, prepared by my friend John Lamoreau, I really didn’t think it would be all that difficult. After all, I think I’m a pretty nice person. And I don’t really have any “enemies.”
But John’s list was disturbingly practical – pray for the family member who bugs you the most, your most obnoxious co-worker, the most abrasive person in your church. And the guidelines said to not pray for these people to change in the way I want them to, but to pray for God to bless and guide them.
This exercise turned out to be more difficult than I thought. The list also included the politician you most dislike and the most evil person in the world who comes to mind. But it was actually harder to pray for the people in my own life that I struggle with than it was to pray for a nasty dictator! Some of the prayers were said through clenched teeth.
Midway through the week, a couple of the people I had been praying for gave me a hard time again. Now they were really on my stinker list! The instructions were to pray for a blessing for them, so at first I tried to figure out a way around it. After all wouldn’t they be truly blessed if God showed them how wrong they are? Then they could repent and see the error of their ways, apologize to me and tell me how right I am. Surely that would be a great blessing to us all!
OK, so that wasn’t the idea. Jesus said to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Surely that has to include the kind of annoying habits and petty offenses I was stewing over. So I continued to pray, asking God to bless those rotten stinkers, I mean fellow children of God.
John’s list was subtitled “How to start unclogging a hardened heart.” And he was right. As the week went on, as I continued in the daily discipline of prayer, my heart did start to soften. I found I could pray for blessings for those challenging people and really mean it! And even when I wasn’t praying, I could think about them without feeling resentful.
The words of blessing given by the minister on Easter morning seemed especially timely…
“May we see the face of Christ in the faces of those we love, and most of all, in the faces of those who we do not.”