If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. (Jas 1:5-6)
We are told to pray in faith. We are told not to judge others. (Mt 7:1) Additionally, we are to love our neighbor, and this includes those inside and outside of the Christian faith. (Mt 22:39)
Yet there are times when I’m not inclined to any of these three. I don’t want to pray for him or her. I am full of judgment, and I have no faith or love after what they’ve done.
My mother always says to pray for people’s lives to improve. In other words, I shouldn’t pray my slovenly neighbor is tossed out of their home. I should pray they have the opportunity for a better home in another location. I should pray the coworker who gets on my nerves is promoted to the office in Orlando or Houston.
As Christians, we are told to love everyone and to wish the best for them in this manner. But let’s be honest. Sometimes we’re praying they will trip. And that’s my point. That isn’t a prayer at all in the sense God meant it.
Prayer is divine connection. It’s extending our faith to God, and Him seeing it and answering. In any other context, it isn’t prayer and produces nothing. The Bible calls these “vain” words.
Therefore doth Job open his mouth in vain; he multiplieth words without knowledge. (Job 35:16)
But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions. (Mt 6:7)
In plain English, we’d say I’m wasting my time. In reality, I’m wasting it by not praying in faith, and I’m also rehearsing the thing that’s getting on my nerves. This will eventually have an opposite effect. Suddenly, I’m unhappy and bitter and nervous and a thousand other negative things.
Sometimes, our best action is to say nothing at all.
I am annoyed when Christians say, “We should pray for him instead,” when what I feel for that person or situation has nothing to do with good things. I don’t want them to succeed. I certainly am not sitting there thinking, “Promote her, Lord.”
Yes, God loves everyone. Yes, He died for all. Yes, I should be that magnanimous. But I am human and my humanity takes over at times. In those moments of weakness, I am the best person I can be if I simply shut up. By saying nothing, I keep the devil from working in me, and, at the same time, I’m not lying to you, to others, or to God.
Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. (Ps 51:10)
I move on. I put the unhappiness aside, and I pray instead (later, when my head is clear) for my own heart to soften so that I can pray as I should. Similarly, I don’t condemn others who, like me, can’t pray for someone I feel led to help.
I may have a heart for sex abuse victims or orphaned children or rural villages in “Upper Slobobia” (a fictional town my mother referred to frequently in my youth), but you may be called to pray and believe for something else. There isn’t anything wrong with either one, as long as we are both with clean hearts full of faith and not simply trying to spit out something positive for someone we actually find morally reprehensible.
For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. (Heb 4:15)
Think of Jesus, instead, who did the right thing when facing the worst people, and knows better than all of us how to stare someone distasteful in the eye and not blink. Even better, He died for their sins, only hours after they condemned Him. But notice, without defending Himself. He was silent.
There’s great power in that if we will apply it.
And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. (Jn 8:4-8)
Suzanne D. Williams