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How Praying for Your Enemies Can Change Your Heart + a few tips to help you forgive



I struggle with bitterness.


There, I said it, it's out there. It's not something I'm proud of, but it is a very, very real battle in my heart. Jesus and I have to talk it out often, or else I find myself swallowed up by resentment and jealousy, and that is not the kind of life I want to live.


One day, I was just really, really struggling with this. I was hurt by someone, and it kind of consumed me. I was praying about it, and I just felt the Lord say to me, "love on her." In that moment, I kind of began arguing with God, you know? Like, "Why me? She doesn't deserve that, and I don't particularly want to do that. You must have gotten something wrong!"


But there it was again. The quiet voice, challenging me to "love on her".


This has happened during multiple different conflicts, and every time, I resist. It's hard to love on people who hurt you. It's even harder to love on people when you are still bitter about it and have yet to forgive them for whatever happened.


So, giving up, I said, "God, how do you want me to do that?" Because in some situations, it's not exactly possible or healthy to approach a person or have a conversation with them. But, ever so gently, the Lord said, "pray for her."


I don't know if you've ever tried praying for someone you don't particularly like, or you are slightly (or very) bitter towards, but let me tell you, it is a STRUGGLE. It feels insincere, praying that the Lord would bless someone that you don't particularly like. At first, the words were hard to get out, and I could barely pray over her at all.


One day, though, I had a realization (one God so kindly put on my heart). I suddenly understood, on a deeper level, that hurting people hurt people, and that we are all simply trying to navigate this complicated, often heartbreaking life. It dawned on me that grace must be extended to those who have hurt me because most likely, the hurtful things they've done and said are coming from a place of unhealed pain within themselves. So even if I don't deserve it, and I don't need to excuse it, but I can do my very best to understand that as humans, sometimes our hurt reveals itself in less than pretty ways, and the only thing I can do about that is to pray for this person to understand for themselves that Jesus loves them and that He wants to offer them freedom from whatever is holding them captive.


It is then, and only then, that I was able to pray over my "enemies". But I don't really think that they're my enemies; I truly just believe that those people are on the same side as me, all hurting people trying to figure things out, and sometimes that hurt is spilled out in places it was never meant to be.


Again, this doesn't excuse whatever hurtful thing they did or said, but it frees me from having to hold onto that bitterness. It frees me from being angry or judgemental or critical. It frees me enough to pray for that person, so that my heart can continue to heal and move forward with my life.


And when I pray over the people who have hurt me, there is such peace. I no longer see them as people I need to fight against, people I need to defend myself towards, people that I need to be angry with. I see them as hurting people God has called me to love, forgive, and shower extra grace on. That looks a little different depending on the situation, but the heart change is all the same - it unchains my soul from the bitterness and hurt I tend to hold onto and allows me to walk in grace upon grace.


From there, it's a continual journey to forgive and heal and move on. Some days are harder than others, and that's okay. But here are a few things that have personally helped me as I learn to release all the bitterness in my heart and extend grace towards whoever has hurt me.


1. Write down every single way that person has hurt you and every single thing you need to forgive that person for.

I had held onto so tightly so much pain because it was so hard for me to step back and face those hard feelings head on. But once I decided to sit down and write down every single way that I felt hurt by that specific person, I was able to release that pain in such a freeing way. By putting that pen to paper describing every little way I felt hurt, I felt such a weight lifted off of my shoulders. This was the perfect way for me to address all of the hard feelings and let it go. From there, this list gave me inspiration on how to pray over my heart and specifically ask the Lord to help me to forgive those things.


2. Think about what that difficult or painful situation has taught you and/or how it's strengthened your relationship with the Lord.

It's really important to me that I give myself the tools to heal and move on from those hurtful situations, and one way I love to do that is to reframe the way I see the situation as a whole. When I step back and reflect on how I've grown or what I've learned because of the hurt I experienced, it brings so much purpose to those feelings. It enabled me to be less resentful towards that person and understand that the Lord is still working, even whenever I'm facing hurt or frustration. I have a notes app on my phone where I write down the person's name who had hurt or upset me, how they hurt me, and where God has been in all of that. Again, this refocuses me on the Lord and the growth that has come from it instead of brewing in bitterness.


3. Write a letter to either the person who hurt you or to God about the situation.

This is another easy way to release all of those hurt feelings you've been holding onto. You don't have to send this letter (in fact, I'd recommend you don't), but it still enables you to rant, be upset, and express that in a healthy and safe way. Once you're done, it's amazing how freeing it is to get all of that off your chest so then you can actually move on.


4. Pray over your heart towards that person.

You cannot change the person, but you can change yourself. Ask that the Lord would help you to forgive and show kindness towards that person. Pray that He would show you how to see that person the way He sees them, and that He would direct the words you speak and actions you do towards that person so that you may glorify Him. This was huge, because the Spirit can do big things in our heart, and it all starts with inviting Him in.

 

Forgiveness and healing is something that I am continually working on, but I am so grateful for the way that the Lord is teaching me right now. From praying for my enemies and learning strategies to release and move on from bitterness, I feel like every day, I am becoming more free and more joyful simply because I'm giving God space to work in my heart. If you have any advice or wisdom you'd love to share, or any prayer requests, let me know down in the comments below! I love to hear from you! :)

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