There is a difficult separation to make at times as a Christian. How does one pray against some one’s actions without it seeming as if you are praying against that person. This is a question I often have to ask myself and that I frequently find myself double checking my heart for the answer. Let’s face it, we are all human and have certain desires (a.k.a. lusts) that can easily creep in to our hearts and incline us to pray for things that perhaps would harm others. When you spell it out like that, it sounds much worse than how we justify it in our carnal minds.
An example of what I mean took place in my life not long ago. Let me preface this by saying that this is not me saying, follow my example in this matter. For this one time that I may have gotten it right, I am sure I failed a million times before and several times since then. That being said, I was having a phone conversation with a woman who does not attend my church. During the conversation, I pointed out to her where in the Bible, God would show that her attitude and actions were sinful. Being one who at the time I believed to be a sister in Christ, I did what the Bible instructs us to do and gently called her to repentance. Eventually, she screamed “stop saying that!!!” Then, quite possibly the most hurtful thing a person could say to another was uttered on her end as she said, “I wish you had never been born and I would not care if you died tonight.”
Stunned and feeling punched in the gut, it took me a moment to gather my thoughts. I had prayed for God’s guidance before entering into this conversation and I believe he gave it to me as I was led to reply softly that though I was hurt by such a comment, that I forgive her but that her murder (let us not forget the New Testament qualification of murder; 1 John 3:15) of me would once again be a matter she would need to seek repentance for with the Lord. I quickly ended the conversation and broken, prayed to the Lord.
As I prayed, I realized that God was causing me to look at my own heart while I prayed and I stopped. I had to ask myself if my prayer was against this woman or her deeds. More simply put, I had to ask if I was capable of praying for the soul of someone who would rather me be dead than alive. Can I pray for someone who would rather my wife be left alone to provide for our three sons than to have a husband and provider? Can I pray for someone who would wish on my children a childhood with no father, no male influence, no daddy? Can I pray for someone who, in a day when male leadership in the church of our Lord Jesus Christ is an endangered species, would rather see a church die than thrive? The answer that returned to me when I looked at my heart was a disappointing, loud, and disturbing NO.
There was something wrong with my heart. As time has passed, that answer has changed. Through prayer and Bible study, the Lord has reminded me of lessons I had either learned and forgotten, or learned and maybe chose to ignore. The Psalmist David writes in his beautiful prayer found in Psalm 141, “…Yet my prayer is continually against their evil deeds (v5).”
Here, this man after God’s own heart, who had literal people with swords and armies after him, asks God not to condemn or destroy those who would be David’s enemy and mean him harm. No, David asks God to give him the guidance to pray against the deeds of his enemy. That’s not to pray against the enemy themselves, but to pray against their actions and to continue to provide him with the ability to tell them the truth about the one true God.
One must believe that David knew something about people. He knew we are flawed. You don’t have to read the story of David to understand that this knowledge did not come from some book, some study, or some insightful observation of watching the people around him. David’s knowledge about the erroneous deeds of people came from first hand knowledge, from his own mistakes and his own failures.
Think about your own prayers of repentance to the Lord. Never do you pray for God to cast you out, to punish you severely, or to remove you from this Earth. No, we pray for forgiveness of our evil deeds and another chance to cling to the mercy of the Lord and abound in the grace provided us on Calvary. Perhaps this is what Christ intended for us to do when he gave us the Beatitude in Luke 6:27 instructing us to love our enemy.
We pray, teach, instruct, guide, and point to the Word the error of the ways of our enemy. In a sense, condemning the deed(s), but never, NEVER, the person. We pray for the Lord to remove the evil deeds from the life of the enemy and to forgive the person. We pray that the Lord use us to help remove those deeds from the life of another, but never that the Lord use us to remove the life from another.
David in Psalm 141 provides us with an excellent example that we all need saving from ourselves. Our pride, lust, attitudes, and other sins can lead us to pray without evaluating our own heart first. Just as we pray that the Lord forgive our evil deeds but save us as a person, we are to pray that the Lord forgives the evil deeds of our enemy while sparing their life and soul as well. Christ died for all, not just you and not just me.