5 Prayers for Friends and Family Who Are Hard to Love
By Rachel Britton, Crosswalk.com
Sometimes friends and members of our families can be hard to love, or even to like. As Christians, we know that the Bible teaches us to exhibit love for a broad range of people — our neighbors (Matthew 22:39), other believers (John 13:34), and even our enemies (Matthew 5:44). Our friends and family are included within those categories. But often, those closest to us are the hardest to love.
Difficult situations, differences in opinion, personality clashes and contrasts in the way we communicate are just some of the things that can lead to conflicting emotions within ourselves. We know we should be kind, patient, respectful, non-judgmental, forgiving and more — all of which are an expression of love. Instead, we find ourselves frustrated, annoyed and angry, resentful, critical, unforgiving.
So, how do we love those of our friends and family who are hard to love? We can begin with prayer.
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1. A Prayer to Know Christ’s Love
Our first prayer is not for those we find hard to love, but for ourselves. Think of it like the instruction on airplanes, to put your mask on first before helping others. We need to pray to know Christ’s love in our own lives.
You may have been a Christian for many years. You may be a brand-new Christian. You may not know Christ at all. All of us, whatever stage of our Christian lives, should pray, like Paul in Ephesians 3:18, to “grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.”
Our purpose in life, as Christians, is to become more Christ-like (Ephesians 4:13). And one of the primary fruits of a follower of Christ is love (Galatians 5:22).
The Bible tells us that God’s love for us is shown through Jesus Christ: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
By believing in Jesus Christ, we participate in His love and cannot be separated from it: (Romans 8:38-39). Not only do we have an unbroken connection to God’s love, but His love has been “poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:5). The word “poured” gives us the image an abundant stream, like water flowing from a faucet.
This love gives us victory over everything, including our unloving emotions: “despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us” (Romans 8:37).
Use this prayer to pray for God’s love given to you through Jesus Christ, to be poured into you through the Holy Spirit.
I thank You that by believing in your Son, Jesus Christ, my whole life is immersed in Your amazing love. Thank you for demonstrating Your love for me through your Son, Jesus Christ. Thank You that I can never be separated from Your love. Help me to remember that Your love is poured into my heart through Your Holy Spirit so I can have victory over all my unloving emotions. I ask You to fill me anew with Your love in the name of Your Son, Jesus and through Your Holy Spirit.
With God’s love given to us through Christ, and poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, we are then equipped to love other people. Some of those people may be from our spiritual family – our brothers and sisters in Christ – whom we find hard to love.
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2. A Prayer to Love Other Believers
Just before his death, Jesus gave his disciples a new commandment to love one another (John 13:34). There are two things that we need to understand from Jesus’ instruction.
First, our love for one another is based on Christ’s love for us and his sacrifice for us on the cross: “As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34b). We are to love other believers because Jesus loves us. We are to imitate His love.
Second, Jesus’ instruction was for a new community that would exist after His ascension into heaven and the coming of the Holy Spirit.
The New American Commentary explains that this new community, which we are part of, builds on God’s intention in the Old Testament, calling out a people who are recognized by their love for God: “Hear, O Israel…Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5) and their love for each other: “Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart…Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:17-18).
We may be embarrassed or ashamed to admit there are Christians we find hard to get along with, yet we have the Holy Spirit to help us.
Use this prayer to increase your love for your believers, those within your spiritual family and community.
I want to be obedient to the instruction that Jesus gave, to love others believers, even though there are some in my community of faith who are hard to love. I ask through Your grace and power that You will give me the strength to love each one of them. Help me to love deeply, from the heart (1 Peter 1:22), to be pe patient, to make allowance for other’s faults because of Your love (Ephesians 4:2 NLT) to have genuine affection, and take delight in honoring others before myself (Romans 12:10).
Our love, however, is to extend beyond other Christians to those who we consider our “enemies.”
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3. A Prayer to Love Our Enemies
There are “enemies” — bad and evil people in the world, our countries, communities, and much closer, in our personal lives. Some people, we think – especially those who hurt us and harm the innocent and vulnerable – do not deserve to be loved.
Yet God sets an example for us: For God so loved the world, says John 3:16. God’s love extends to all people. But, does that mean we are to love everyone? In the Old Testament, God’s people were instructed to help their enemies. “If you come across your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to return it” (Exodus 23:4). “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink (Proverbs 25:21).
Jesus, however, expected more than keeping the law: “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44) for “then your reward will be great.”
Love and prayer is how our Heavenly Father expects us to behave as “children of the Most High.” We are to imitate Him, “because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.” So we are to “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
Our natural reaction to those who do wrong, who hurt, destroy, and abuse is to judge and condemn. But, our heavenly Father calls us to a far higher order.
I must admit it is hard to like, let alone love, those people in my life whom I see as not worthy of love. They are responsible for many tragedies and much suffering. Through your Holy Spirit I ask you to give me the strength to learn to love so my behavior is pleasing to you.
The following two prayers are practical ways in which we can show love.
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4. Pray to “Keep No Record of Wrongs”
The ultimate way that we love our friends and family who are hard to love, is to forgive.
Like Peter, we know that extending forgiveness is important for a follower of Jesus (Matthew 18:21). Perhaps, like Peter, we think there should be a limit to the number of times that we forgive a person. Yet, Jesus told Peter that our tolerance of others should be limitless.
Jesus explained that because God has forgiven us, we too must forgive other people. If we know God’s forgiveness, then we know that we are to extend forgiveness to those who offend us. “Love,” the Bible tells us, “keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Corinthians 13:5).
Let’s pray as Jesus taught us: “Forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us” (Matthew 6:12).
I must admit there are people in my life who I find hard to forgive. They have hurt me, treated me badly, and abused me. I don’t feel that they deserve forgiveness. But, Lord, I know you are a fair and gracious judge. Give me strength through You Holy Spirit to forgive so that I can be free from judgment myself and be pleasing to You.
5. Pray to Express Love by Your Behavior
1 Corinthians lists the expressions of love: “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).
To love in these ways seems impossible. But, as these attributes seem to overlap with the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22, pray for the Holy Spirit to pour love into your heart.
As you say this prayer, replace he/she with the name of someone who comes to mind.
Forgive me for my impatience towards him/her. Help me show patience.
Forgive me for being unkind towards him/her. Give me another opportunity to show kindness.
Forgive me for being jealous towards him/her. Help me to express admiration instead.
Forgive me for being arrogant towards him/her. Give me a spirit of humility.
Forgive me for being rude to him/her. Teach me to be respectful.
Where I have demanded my own way, give me the opportunity to put him/her first.
When I judged him/her, show me how I can give him/her a fresh start.
I ask all these things through the power of Your Holy Spirit and love shown to me through Your Son, Jesus.
As we try to follow through on God’s command to love our friends and family members who are hard to love, remember that we do not do this on our own, but through the power of the Holy Spirit given to us through the work of Jesus Christ.
Gerald L. Borchert, John 12–21, vol. 25B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002), 100.
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