Some years ago I started keeping prayer cards instead of a prayer list. A 3x 5 gives plenty of room to record updates and answers. Another benefit: It’s easy to rotate through the stack, praying for six to ten people/organizations per day.
One card in the stack trips me up. At the top is written the name of “a difficult person.” He’s arrogant, dishonest, and unreliable.
I know I need to include him in my prayers, but I hardly know where to begin, except for “God, help this man!”
So I finally did some reading on the subject of difficult people, to find out how to pray for such individuals. Below are several suggestions I found helpful. If you have challenging folks in your life, perhaps you’ll find these thoughts useful also.
First, I need to begin with repentance. Before I pray about the faults and shortcomings of others, I need to address my own (Matthew 7:1-5). In addition, before I look at the person to be forgiven, I must look to God for the power to forgive (1).
Second, I can ask God to:
- Open the heart of this person to the error(s) of his ways.
- Reveal the truth of the gospel to him—that Jesus is the only Way to salvation.
- Grant the person self-awareness so he’ll see how his choices and behavior negatively impact others.
- Curtail his influence so that innocent people might be protected.
- Bring godly people into his sphere, to exemplify the God-enhanced life.
- Cause circumstances that draw his attention to God.
- Reveal the difference to him between godly wisdom and human foolishness.
Third, I can praise God that:
- He is sovereign over all—even difficult people.
- He can cause positive outcomes—in spite of erroneous judgments.
- “Mistakes” on their part can actually produce God-ordained benefits.
And just how might such a prayer unfold? Perhaps something like this:
Oh, God, as I pray for those who
cause great frustration and even suffering for others,
it’s easy to lose sight of my own sinfulness.
I have not lived free of pride, dishonesty or unreliability either.
Forgive me, Father, for the many ways
I fall short of your desires for me.
Thank you for your grace and love that
prompt you to accept my confession and
prod me toward greater reliance upon you,
to become a better version of myself.
Because I fall short
(even though I know you as my Savior and Master),
it is with deep humility I pray for Mr. X.
I am no better than he is.
First, may he recognize the truth of your Word
and the reality of salvation through your Son, Jesus.
I pray Mr. X will seek the Light of your wisdom to guide his way.
May your Holy Spirit shed Light on the choices he’s already made,
and reveal to him the full, true consequences of his behavior.
Guide him to change course to your ways.
I thank you, Lord, that every day you are
sending Christians into Mr. X’s life as bearers of your Light,
to draw him to you.
You are engineering circumstances that highlight your power,
and using that sovereign power to curtail his influence.
I thank you for your ability
to produce positive outcomes even through difficult people.
The story of Joseph is one example.
In addition, even mistakes on the part of Mr. X
can actually produce just and righteous benefits.
Oh, how I praise you, Almighty God,
that you have established your throne in heaven,
and your kingdom rules over all—
even over difficult people.
(Psalm 51:1-5; Romans 3:23; Romans 7:18; Ecclesiastes 2:13; John 16:13; Psalm 119:130; Matthew 5:16; Romans 1:20; Psalm 37:17; Proverbs 19:21; Psalm 103:19)
- Ralph Sockman,The Higher Happiness, Pierce & Smith, 1950, p. 107.
How do you pray for difficult people? Please share your insights in the Comments section below!