For years, John had been somewhat of an irritant at church. He was bad-tempered, demanding, and often rude. He complained constantly about not being “served” well, and about volunteers and staff not doing their job. He was, honestly, hard to love.
So when I heard that he’d been diagnosed with cancer, I found it difficult to pray for him. Memories of his harsh words and unpleasant character filled my mind. But remembering Jesus’ call to love, I was drawn to say a simple prayer for John each day. A few days later, I found myself beginning to think a bit less often about his unlikeable qualities. He must be really hurting, I thought. Perhaps he’s feeling really lost now.
Prayer, I realize, opens ourselves, our feelings, and our relationships with others to God, allowing Him to enter and bring His perspective into it all. The act of submitting our will and feelings to Him in prayer allows the Holy Spirit to change our hearts, slowly but surely. No wonder Jesus’ call to love our enemies is bound up tightly with a call to prayer: “Pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:28).
I have to admit, I still struggle to think well of John. But with the Spirit’s help, I’m learning to see him through God’s eyes and heart—as a person to be forgiven and loved.