Pray for Whom?

October 12, 2021

…pray for those who mistreat you. Matthew 5:44 NIV

When someone mistreats you at work, what do you feel like doing? Can you remember the last imaginary conversation you had with them? What did you say? Let’s up it a little. What was your reaction when someone mistreated your partner, your spouse, your child? What did you want to say and do then? Our normal reaction is to strike back, to defend, even the score, make them pay. That’s rough enough when it’s in the outer circles, but when conflict becomes toxic, vengeful, scorekeeping at home, life is quickly unbearable.

Jesus has the ultimate credibility platform from which to speak about what to do when you are mistreated. He was on this planet for a short thirty-three years. We can safely assume that because He was both fully God and fully man He had the usual experiences a child has: occasional bullying and mistreatment from other kids and insensitivity from adults. We know for sure that in His adult life He was continually misunderstood, undervalued, criticized, and mistreated. He was accused of poor motives and actions when His heart was completely pure.

We speak of “the Holy Family” and it lends the impression that their home life was perfect. Natural human logic would tell you that isn’t true—Mary and Joseph and Jesus’ siblings were ordinary humans. And Jesus had all the emotions and ability to experience pain, hurt, and disappointment that we have. In just one instance, Mark records from Peter’s telling of the story, “One time Jesus entered a house, and the crowds began to gather again. Soon he and his disciples couldn’t even find time to eat. When his family heard what was happening, they tried to take him away. ‘He’s out of his mind,’ they said” (Mark 3:20-21). That’s tough—to have your family call you out and you know they are completely wrong. But Jesus prayed for them, loved them, and kept on fulfilling His mission. His brother James was a late comer to the party. He had no use for Jesus until after the resurrection.

All through the gospels the word “enemies” is used to describe the people who opposed and mistreated Jesus. Most of us don’t go that far. We don’t categorize the people who mistreat us as enemies. But we usually don’t go the other direction, either. We quietly resent them, try to cut their legs out from under them with people, and generally defend ourselves. Jesus prayed for those who mistreated Him. He didn’t let them determine His actions. Only one time do we know what He prayed and that was on the cross. He acknowledged their ignorance of reality and He prayed, “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing.” Jesus gave them the benefit of the doubt, praying that God would not hold this against them. Through that prayer He released resentment and gave the Father room to work.

  • Jesus, what do You want to say to me about how I react when I am mistreated?