Last night, someone left a nasty note sellotaped to my car windscreen. The anonymous person didn’t like the way I had parked and so decided to vent their fury in a shouty, written rant.
I don’t know the identity of the letter writer (though I have my suspicions), so I’ll just call him Angry Fred.
Angry Fred’s letter upset me a lot. It wasn’t so much the letter itself (admittedly, my parking was a bit unintentionally dodgy), but the rage-filled, accusing tone, when in reality, a simple, ‘please don’t park here’ would have done the job just as well. I fumed (in my head) for much of the morning and then in the afternoon, while I worked, I stewed. I mentally wrote ‘him’ a sneery letter in return and then later, reflected on something my dad had said to me earlier in the day.
Perhaps no one has ever prayed for Angry Fred before? Perhaps this is God’s way of getting you to pray for him?
PRAY FOR HIM?? I semi-shrieked at the time. I’ll pray for him alright, while I flippin kick his tyres.
But deep down, I knew my dad was right. And these are not trite words either – my dad’s learned the hard way that when someone provokes you or is unkind, there’s really only one legitimate response; the way Jesus said we had to respond;
I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. Matt 5:44 (MSG)
It’s a verse I’ve probably often repeated but the effort of actually putting it into practice, is quite exhausting.
But what if, God allowed Angry Fred to walk into my life, so that I would be nudged to pray for him?
So, with (admittedly) gritted teeth I did pray for Fred. I prayed (if I’m honest) that he would feel guilty and sorry for writing a poison pen letter, but that somehow or other, he’d have an encounter with Jesus.
I absolutely didn’t want to pray for him, but later on, I realised that as I focused with the ‘energies of prayer’, some of my early morning rage had eased.
I began to wonder if Fred was really quite lonely. Maybe he’d had a terrible day and I was the first available victim? Maybe he had major issues going on in his life?
I’ll probably never know, but today has shown me even though it feels almost impossible, praying for people who are spiteful towards you, is not just for their benefit. It’s for mine too.