My grandmother was bedridden for the last five years of her life. From the time she was in her thirties she suffered from rheumatoid arthritis. From a fairly early age she lived with deep, excruciating chronic pain. I am not sure I ever once heard her complain – I think she might whisper something like, “mercy” but that was it. At her funeral, her pastor made mention that whenever he visited or called to check on her, she rarely mentioned her needs but asked for the names of those who needed prayer. She was determined to do kingdom work even if the devil was determined to keep her distracted by pain. She kept prayer lists in her Bible and at her bedside. She used her captivity to serve the Lord.
Many people in my area are praying fervently right now for a little baby girl who is in dire need of a heart transplant. We are watching and waiting daily for her mom’s reports. The pictures of this sweet child hooked up to monitors and tubes and painful. The pictures of her mom and dad lying in bed with her move me to tears every time.
Another young man in our community is suffering from cancer. The kids and teachers at his school have rallied around with prayers and fundraisers. I love to see how people pull together to pray and be the hands and feet of Jesus.
It occurred to me that while these situations are painful and heartbreaking it is very easy for me to add these people to my prayer list. I have no problem stopping in the middle of my day to beg God for another day for the baby girl or the young man. A dear friend in the faith challenged me recently to pray just as hard for my enemies. Sounds trite and not so big of a deal but when you really think about your worst enemy, do you quickly add them to the list in your Bible or on your bedside? And if we are honest, sometimes we pray for those people but we are praying they get run over by a bus. As we tarry along in life, I am coming to learn that people get added to our prayer lists that we would never imagine praying for. I admit I even wonder how God, Jesus, or my friend would have the audacity to ask me to pray for my vile enemy.
The Book of Romans contains an entire section on suffering and how to have hope in the midst. I think of the mama in the hospital bed who sleeps to the sounds of monitors and machines and is awakened by alarms and her baby being rushed off. But now, I think of those who have sufferings that can’t be posted on social media. For the mom who is praying for a perpetrator and a prosecutor. For the sister caring for her very sick sibling and father only to find the medical personnel have made grave mistakes. How do you pray for the ones who have so horribly wronged you or your loved one?
Romans 8:26-27 says:
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
I used to think the wordless groans were just about my suffering but I’m coming to learn that the Holy Spirit is also helping me to pray for my enemies. My groanings and struggles to pray for the ones who have hurt me are heard and when I can’t pray, He is praying on my behalf. I’m challenged then to add the difficult ones to my prayer list and not just the “easy” prayer requests. It’s easy to pray for a sweet, innocent child – it’s another thing to pray for the obviously guilty adult who knew better.
I can’t imagine my grandmother had too many enemies. If the Southern Baptist church canonized saints, she would likely be first in line. But I am sure that she prayed for everyone and everything while she spent time in her bed waiting to go home to be with Jesus. I want to be more like her – thinking as little of myself as possible and praying for the most people possible - even the enemies. With God, I know that is possible.