Tumbling in the Sand
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone” – 1 Timothy 2:1
I know this sentence continues in the text to tell us to pray for leaders and those in authority.
Great! Include them in the list.
Pray for President Obama, our Congress and House representatives (at the state and federal level). Pray for Vladamir Putin. Pray for Bashar al-Assad. Pray for every possible political leader you can think of—especially the ones you don’t like. Also pray for other community leaders, too. Pray for leaders of Boy Scout troops and directors of day cares. Pray for school principals and police chiefs. Pray for your pastor. Please. Pray for other people’s pastors, too. Seriously, pray for every leader that you can think of to pray for. It would help every community everywhere if all of our leaders were better supported in prayer.
But, I’m kind of interested in emphasizing that “everyone” word right now.
I think this praying for people thing kind of falls in the same category as “forgiving people” and “loving your enemies” in terms of difficulty. Because, well, it’s not just praying for some people—it’s praying for everyone.
Yeah, the people you love dearly kind of everyone.
And the people you sort of like kind of everyone.
And the people you don’t really know kind of everyone.
But also the person who cut you off in traffic kind of everyone.
The person who dances on your last nerve kind of everyone.
The person you honestly have thought if you could hide their body… kind of everyone.
The person you would be happy to never see again kind of everyone.
Most importantly, the author of 1st Timothy says, MOST importantly, we are supposed to pray for everyone.
And you know why that is hard? Because praying for someone—and by that, I mean really praying for someone, not just asking God to harm them or for them to drop off the planet, but actually praying for their good, for you to find room in your heart for them, for God to give them an extra measure of grace and wisdom, for their hearts to become changed by God (as long as you’re willing to let your heart be changed by God, too)—leads to forgiveness and even to love.
I’m serious. It’s a slippery slope.
And, I even have a serious theologian who agrees with me. Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes in this book of his called Life Together that: “I can no longer condemn or hate a brother [or sister] for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble [they] cause me. [Their] face, that hitherto may have been strange and intolerable to me, is transformed in intercession into the countenance of a brother or sister for whom Christ died, the face of a forgiven sinner. “
And, you know what? When you see people like that, you really see them differently. And then you treat them differently.
Does it mean that they will be way easier to live with or that they will change? Maybe. Maybe not. But how you perceive them will slowly change, and because of that, the world will change, too.
Don’t believe me? I dare you to give it a try. And even if you do believe me, I dare you to try it, too.
Pray for everyone.
Pray for the first person who comes to mind.
Pray for the person you wish wouldn’t come to mind.
And try to do it again tomorrow.
And why don’t we see what happens to our communities our hearts, and our world?
Featured image borrowed from (and modified a bit): Jacob and Julie Bock’s blog post: “And when you pray (Part 1)”