Praying for Our Offender

by Jennifer Slattery

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” 1 Timothy 2:1-2 NIV

When I’m afraid and feel threatened, and especially when I sense those I love are in danger, I’m diligent—fervent!—in prayer. I beg God to intervene.

I certainly don’t want to pray for the offender. But when, by God’s grace, I put aside my will, and, out of obedience, I do pray for those causing myself or my loved ones pain, something happens internally.

My heart softens. The anger lessens. The fear and stress that had me all worked up and distracted are abated. Perhaps that is, in part, how to experience the peace that is beyond anything we can understand (Phil. 4:6-7). In that moment, I become more like Jesus, who, as He hung on the cross, prayed for the very ones who were persecuting Him (Luke 23:34).

We can see this same love in Paul in 1 Timothy chapter 2. Recently released from prison, he told his young friend to pray for their political leaders: those who were persecuting them and the entire Christian community. Paul knew those leaders would never change unless they came to know Christ, and maybe, he remembered that he was once just like them.

Paul and Timothy were living under the authority of Nero, a cruel and insane leader. Each day, as they walked the streets of Roman-ruled land, fears had to arise. Would this be the day they’d be imprisoned? Stoned, flogged, or even executed?

Had I been in that situation, I probably would’ve gone into hiding. I would’ve prayed—a lot! For myself, my protection and safety.

Not Paul. Instead, he focused on others, and not just those he loved, but on all people—the betrayer and betrayed. The oppressor and oppressed. Those who followed Christ and those who didn’t. And he didn’t just ask Timothy to pray for them. He urged him to do so. Can you sense his passion, his love for the lost?

It was this kind of love we see in Jesus when, on the night He was betrayed, He prayed for those closest to Him: the men He’d poured Himself into, day in and day out, who would abandon Him during His darkest hour.

Maybe you’ve been there. I have, and it hurt.

I’d walked beside a woman, prayed with and for her, and had done all I knew to help her grow and succeed. But then she turned against me and the relationship turned ugly. The injustice of it all pricked against my pride. So, I stewed, growing more and more indignant. More and more angry, all the while sensing God’s gentle but persistent tap on my heart: Forgive. Love. Pray.

Still fighting negative thoughts and emotions, I closed my eyes, and out of obedience did what God asked. At first, it felt unnatural, like words forced through gritted teeth. But the more I prayed for this woman, the softer my heart became toward her. I began to see her and the situation differently, not through the lens of my pain but instead, through the lens of hers. I caught a glimpse of the healing and growth God wanted to bring about in her.

Suddenly, I understood—this wasn’t about me. It never had been. It was all about Jesus rescuing and transforming our broken world. Paul understood this, and this understanding gave him the strength to keep pouring himself out for others, so that God’s glory could be seen and lives could be saved. Paul longed for his dear friend, his son in the faith, to have that same focus and passion.

I believe God has the same desire for us.

Jennifer SlatteryAbout the author: Jennifer Slattery is a writer and international speaker who addresses women’s groups, church groups, Bible studies, and other writers across the nation. She’s the author of six contemporary novels and maintains a devotional blog. Jennifer has a passion for helping women discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, she and her team partner with churches to facilitate events designed to help women rest in their true worth and live with maximum impact. When not writing, reading, or editing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her adult daughter and coffee dates with her hilariously fun husband.

Join the conversation: For what unlikely person is God moving you to pray?

Photo by Natalia Figueredo on Unsplash