Mathew 5:44 says that we are to love our enemies & pray for those who persecute us. This really is a wonderful thing to do. It helps you to release your anger at those people who hurt & even abuse you, which of course is a wonderful thing. Anger is an awful burden to carry. Plus, those who behave so terribly obviously need prayer because something is wrong with them.
The problem is how some folks apply this verse. Victims of abuse are often told they need to pray for the person who hurt them. While that is true, telling someone that immediately after they have divulged their situation is probably the worst timing imaginable!
Someone who has suffered abuse really has a lot of issues to contend with. Shame is usually one of those issues, since abusers often blame their victims. Telling someone about it takes a lot of courage because of this, especially if the abuser & this other person know each other. When someone does this & is immediately told that they should pray for the person who caused them such pain only adds to their shame. Praying for that person isn’t what a person in that situation wants to do just yet, even if it is Scripture. That can add to their shame because they are often told they’re “disobeying” God.
Telling someone in that situation to pray for their abuser is also very invalidating. The victim’s pain is ignored & they are told to pray for the person who inflicted that pain on them. It makes the victim feel as if they have no right to their pain, because praying for their abuser is so much more important. A bit skewed true, but that is how that situation makes a person feel.
It also makes a victim feel like they are the problem, especially when they are still in the place of not wanting to pray for their abuser just yet. It makes a victim feel like they are wrong & even un-Godly for not being able to pray for the abusive person.
Suggesting someone pray for their abuser too soon also can make a person turn away from God. When you’ve been through an abusive experience & then tell someone, if that someone puts much more value on praying for the abuser than your pain, it can make you think God is that way. He’s more interested in getting his way than your suffering or doesn’t even care about your pain at all. No one should be made to feel this way, but it does happen, sadly.
Another potential problem this suggestion can create is anger. Anger at God for wanting something that seems impossible. Anger at people for preaching rather than offering gentleness & understanding. Anger about the unfairness of feeling like the victim being assaulted while the abuser gets prayer.
Suggesting a victim pray for their abuser right away can cause that victim to be stuck in a painful, shame filled place. Rather than push victims to pray for their abusers, they need compassion, validation & understanding. They need love & security too. Most of all, victims need time
If you look at Matthew 5:44 again though, while it does say we should pray for those who persecute us, it does NOT say we should do it right away. I fail to see how there is anything wrong with focusing on healing for as long as it takes before praying for an abusive person. In fact, I don’t think that should even be mentioned for a while to a victim. They need to heal enough where they can hear such a message without anger or shame. That sort of healing doesn’t happen quickly. It takes time, & there is nothing wrong with that. God truly understands these things & won’t be angry at a victim who can’t pray for their abuser quickly.
4 responses to “About Praying For Abusers”
Reblogged this on Talmidimblogging and commented:
Excellent post Cynthia!!
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I love this post. Yes, yes, and yes, to everything you said here.
People have done this to me in the past, pushed me to forgive and to pray for my abuser, when the abuse had just happened and my wounds were very fresh and excruciating. These same people showed absolutely no concern for my emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical pain. All they seemed to care about was the abuser.
Can you imagine being in a terrible car accident, hit by a drunk driver and grievously injured through no fault of your own — and when the ambulance gets there, before they will even put you on the stretcher, the EMTs urge you to pray for the drunk driver who hit you? Imagine the police, before they will ticket and arrest the drunk, urging you to pray for him or her! Or how about after you arrive in the emergency room, with multiple broken bones, a terrible concussion, severe whiplash, and potentially fatal internal bleeding, the ER nurses and doctors all insist that you need to pray for the drunk driver, before they will attend to your many injuries?
Preposterous, right? But that’s how too many so-called Christians treat the victims of abuse. And then they wonder why people are leaving the churches!
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What you say!!!! It’s ridiculous! Yes, we should pray for abusers, but my word… we aren’t Jesus! He could pray for His while on the cross. What human could do that?! We are to be like Him but we can’t be exactly like Him! If we could, we wouldn’t need Him in the first place.
I know.. that sort of thing is why I don’t attend church or even call prayer lines. Not long after becoming a new Christian, (I probably shared this before.. I forget now), I called a prayer line because I was angry with my mother about all the abuse. I knew the Bible said a lot about forgiveness & I was struggling. The lady who prayed for me was mean. She actually said, “I don’t know what your problem is. God says forgive, so I just do it.” Wow.. thanks for making me feel even worse & like a failure as a Christian!
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