It is hard to hate those for whom you pray

One man, who was a believing Christian and a praying man, ended up getting a divorce from his wife. For years he hated her. The mere thought of her soured his day and made him grind his teeth. In his book In Constant Prayer, author Robert Benson describes how a simple form of prayer affected the man’s heart.
In my friend’s prayer each day, he had a list of those who were close to him for whom he prayed at the appropriate moments in [his morning prayers]. He would pray, as the words of his [prayers] go, “for those who had been given to him and to whom he had been given.” And it was his custom not to say much about the names he said in his prayer; he would simply say the names and see their faces in his mind’s eye, trusting, as the prayer says, “that you will do for them far more than we can desire or pray for.” His kids were on that list, of course, and so were his brothers and his new wife…
He told me that one day he decided to add his ex-wife’s name to the list. He said he never said anything about her; he just said her name aloud and kept going. Dwelling on her name would have been more than he could do.
After some years, he said – he did not know how many – he realized one morning that he no longer hated her. It is, evidently, hard to hate those for whom you pray. (p. 131)
“Givenness” is the main theme of chapter 5 of Luminous. That’s why Benson’s story initially caught my eye. But the story is important in its own right. The fact is, God has given you to certain people, and he has given certain people to you. Some of these people you like, and some you don’t. In fact, some of them you loath or even hate. What if, instead of trying to write certain people in or out of your life, you simply prayed for the people who are already there, whether you like them or not?

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