Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. - Matthew 5:43-45
That's a tall order, isn't it? To love our enemies. To do good to those who treat us poorly. To pray for those who have done wrong by us. It seems illogical to us. Why should we do good by them when they've mistreated us so? Don't they deserve ill treatment in return? Not according to the Bible. Jesus admitted to praying for Peter even though the disciple denied him three times. And I have no doubt in my mind that Jesus even prayed for Judas, the betrayer. He prayed for forgiveness for the very ones who crucified Him. And if we want to be like Jesus, we need to follow His example.
The Lord recently brought this to light in my own life. There was an altercation between another couple and myself, but to be honest, most of the problem was between the lady and me. I won't go into details because it isn't important. What matters is that when we got together to try to resolve the issue, the woman denied having said any of the things that created the situation to begin with. She was adamant that I misunderstood and that the entire thing was my fault. We ended the meeting with hugs and an agreement to let it go, but honestly, I was struggling with that. How was I supposed to let it go? Nothing was resolved, and I knew that I hadn't misunderstood. Besides, this was not the first time we had had an issue like this. My thoughts were that if we couldn't reach a real resolution, the problem would continue to resurface.
A week later, I was still having a difficult time forgetting the situation, and each time I thought on it, I became upset and anxious. Finally, I sensed the Lord urging me to pray for the woman. I balked. Pray for her? Why? She doesn't deserve it. She lied. She refused to own up to her end of the disagreement. She didn't ask for forgiveness or even admit that she needed it. Why in the world should I pray for her? But, the prompting wouldn't leave, and in addition to the urgency to pray for her was the thought that I needed to do so for me as much as for her.
So, I prayed, but I must admit, it wasn't very heartfelt. Still, I tried to push away my bitterness and hurt and do as the Lord had asked. For the next few days, I prayed for the woman, and each day it got a little easier. On the fifth day, as I began to pray, I found myself crying over this woman. They weren't tears of anger, frustration or even hurt. I was literally feeling abounding compassion for her and felt that she must be under a lot of stress and strain to react the way she did. Instead of being hard-hearted toward her, I felt heartbroken for her, and at that moment, everything changed.
Did she change? I have no idea. After all, she probably has no idea that I've been praying for her. But I can tell you, without a doubt, that I changed. The bitterness melted away. Forgiveness came easier. And when I came face to face with the woman a few days later, I was able to genuinely smile at her and speak to her without feeling like a hypocrite. All because I followed God's command to pray for those whom I don't really feel like praying for. It may not change them, but it will certainly change us.
Are you having trouble letting go of something that someone did to you? Are you struggling with forgiveness? If so, I implore you to follow the example of Jesus--pray for that person. It may seem insincere at first. It may feel like a waste of time. But devote a few minutes every day to praying for that person as sincerely as you can, and I guarantee you, within a few days, you'll notice a change in your heart. And when that change starts to occur, don't stop praying. Pray more fervently . Pray until you feel that compassion run deep, and then pray some more. The path to forgiveness lies in our willingness to bring others before the throne of God. When we do, big changes take place and letting go becomes possible!