This week is Valentine’s Day and, for some of you, giving your spouse a love gift feels hypocritical and insincere. There’s been sin and hurt and the loving feeling is not there right now. But this month, I want to talk about the gifts of love that we can give someone, especially when we don’t feel all warm and fuzzy toward him or her, even when we feel just the opposite.
Jesus commands us to love our enemies but actually doing it is a challenge. One of the most powerful gifts we can give someone who feels like an enemy is the gift of prayer.
The Bible tells us that Jesus continually intercedes for us. To be more like Him, we must also learn to intercede for others. To intercede means to speak on another’s behalf or to plead his case.
Moses did this in Exodus 33 when God was about to destroy the Israelites for worshiping the golden calf. Interceding for someone who has hurt us is not easy. Much like an injured animal often attacks others, hurt people often hurt people.
If your spouse is hurting you, I’m not suggesting that you continue to offer yourself to be bitten, but I am suggesting that you ask God to help you have his perspective and his compassion toward this individual thereby empowering you to intercede on his or her behalf.
Prayer is one of the toughest disciplines, especially intercessory prayer, because it is so other-focused. Richard Foster, in his book Prayer, Finding the Heart’s True Home, writes, “By means of intercessory prayer God extends to each of us a personalized, hand-engraved invitation to become intimately involved in laboring for the well-being of others.” What better gift of love? We often pray about our enemy, but do we pray for our enemy?
I’m reminded of Samuel the prophet. After Saul had just made some pretty big mistakes, Samuel replies, “As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you” (1 Samuel 12:23).
In my life, sometimes I have been so focused on praying for my own needs, whether material, physical or spiritual, that intercessory prayer gets tacked on at the end—if I have time. Yet, Jesus continually prays for us, and we are to be like him. We can give someone the gift of love by praying for him or her in the following ways:
- We can pray for his or her salvation.
- We can pray for his or her growth and spiritual maturity.
- We can pray that he or she gains wisdom and forsakes foolishness.
- We can pray for the conviction of God and the moral pressure of the Holy Spirit.
- We can pray for his or her eyes to be opened and to see the truth.
- We can pray that those who interact with our spouse (or other person) would speak truth to him or her.
- We can pray that our spouse (or other person) would desire to know God or know him better.
- We can pray that he or she would desire to be a better husband (wife) or father (mother).
Leanne Payne, in her book Restoring the Christian Soul, describes a process of praying for our enemies. In it she concludes with instructions she received from the Lord regarding this matter. He told her to:
Pray for the health, the wholeness, of your enemies. Pray for the salvaging of all that is good, beautiful, and true within them. I do a great work, one that will amaze you. Be at rest now from all that besets, offends, attacks—love, write, pray, live in peace in My Presence. Enter the timelessness of My joy and peace.”
James encourages us to stick with praying for our spouse or other person by reminding us that “the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 4:16).
So friends, when you are at your wits end and you have no idea how to love this person you’re married to right now, pray. That is the greatest gift you could give.
*Portions of this blog were taken from Chapter 9, How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong (WaterBrook Publisher, 2001).