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.