Some people are just hard to pray for. The teacher whose teaching style doesn’t line up with our child’s learning style, the kid who mistreats ours on the playground—daily “enemies” who persecute us for our beliefs or maybe just what we are wearing. We may not want to admit it, and our kids may even be ashamed to admit it, but when people hurt us, our thoughts rarely turn first to “How could I pray for them?” It’s hard to develop a prayer discipline in alignment with Matthew 5:44: “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” However, if Jesus spoke about it so plainly, it is probably something hard that will grow us both in our relationship with Him and with others.
Talk to your kids about some of your own struggles to pray for people who have hurt you. Admit that it can be hard to pray God’s blessings over someone who continually chooses to hurt you. Remind them that hurting people are often the ones who hurt other people, so to pray for a child who mistreats them may mean praying for that child to feel loved and accepted. Praying for someone doesn’t mean you have to be close to that person; help your children understand boundaries. Safety is a priority, so telling trusted adults when you are mistreated is important.
A tangible way to pray for people who are hard to pray for is by making a prayer rock. Find or purchase a smooth rock the size of your palm. Using a permanent marker, write “Pray for those who persecute you” on the rock. Every morning, set the rock on your pillow when you make your bed. When you go to sleep at night, take the rock off of your pillow and hold the rock in your hand while you pray for the people who may have been like “enemies” during the day. Place the rock on the floor, close to where you put your feet down in the morning when you get up. Then, when you wake up in the morning and put your feet on the floor, take time to pray for your encounters with certain hard-to-love people you may encounter during the day. Let this hard rock remind you to pray for hard things.
As we persevere in praying for our “enemies,” we may find God softening our hearts toward them, and we may even reach a level of love and respect for them. God may give you wisdom about how to interact with someone, or insight and grace for their own hurt. As much as we want to shelter the children God has entrusted to us and keep them from harm, teaching them to do the hard things will draw them into a deeper understanding of God’s love for us.