Maybe it’s that man in business who always seems to end up on the upside of a deal, regardless of who loses or what the consequences are.
Maybe it’s the committee of “concerned leaders” who just ambushed the latest pastor, much like they did the previous two or three, and sent him packing.
Maybe it’s the golden throat, pretty boy preacher who’s heaven to listen to, but hell to work for or deal with.
Maybe it’s the malicious gossip, who can destroy somebody’s life before sundown and never miss a night’s sleep.
Maybe it’s the boss who never has a good word to say about your performance, but takes the credit for all your hard work.
Maybe it’s the politician, who turned “public service” into private self-service.
Maybe it’s a lawyer.
(Sorry. Couldn’t resist. Please don’t sue me.)
Regardless of who you’re thinking of, we’ve all known them. They’re mean, self-centered, manipulative bullies. They’re conmen who, if they can’t take your money, can take your health by driving you batty or to the point of exhaustion. They’re never wrong – at least in their own eyes – and would crawl across England on broken glass to win an argument. And let’s be honest – in all likelihood, they’re probably more powerful than you, more popular than you, and more outwardly successful than you.
Grrrr! The scoundrels!
Hazarding Another Guess
Let me press my luck and hazard another guess. I’ll bet you’ve spent a long of time and energy fussing about that lowlife to just about anybody who would listen and hopefully agree. You’ve vented. You’ve fumed. You’ve groaned. You’ve moaned. You’ve raged. You’ve cried. You’ve told your side of the story if, for no other reason, to make sure you aren’t absolutely crazy.
But it’s highly unlikely you’ve actually brought this up to anybody who could actually do something about it. You’ve settled instead for sympathy.
Maybe you even hoped that somebody would pick up your offense. After all, hating on the creep is always more fun, and feels safer, in a crowd. Meanwhile, back in his lair, the evil scalawag keeps on getting what he’s getting because he keeps on doing what he’s doing.
Isn’t it time for a better plan? Don’t you think it’s time to ask God for something other than healing for your achy-breaky heart, or blessing for the broken road you travel to face the dragon every day?
Jesus said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you” (Luke 6:27-28). I wonder if He actually meant that.
Have you felt hated, cursed, or spitefully used lately? Maybe it’s time to talk to Someone who can actually do something about it. After all, last time I checked, He’s still the only one who can change a human heart.
A Strategy for Praying
Okay, but what? If you’re supposed to pray for those people who cause you such distress and influence such anger, what are you asking God to do?
Zap them? Hey, it’s a thought. Not sure it qualifies as Sermon on the Mount material, though.
Here’s a thought. I wonder if God ever transformed a scoundrel into a man or woman of integrity. I wonder if we can learn some things about how He did it that can guide us in the ways that we pray. I wonder what could happen if we brought our praying into alignment with His ways of transformation.
Do you think that could make a difference? I think it’s worth a try. Sure beats getting up and leading everybody in a word of criticism.
One of the greatest before-and-after stories in the Bible is when God transformed Jacob, whose very name means shyster, into Israel, the father of the nation that bears his name. This was no overnight success story. This change happened over years. And Jacob’s story may well be repeated in the lives of those scoundrels in your realm of influence.
1. Ask God to let him face his match.
Know why scoundrels are scoundrels? Because they’re good at it. Jacob’s birth family, especially his twin brother, was a parade of idiots next to the younger twin. But when that sweet-talking pea trader met his future father-in-law, he had another thing coming. It takes a con to beat a con, and this turned into a 20-year duel.
Sooner or later, what goes around comes around; the liar gets conned, the thief gets taken, or the intimidator gets steamrolled. This can go one of two ways – either they get shamed or they get humbled and change. In his opportunity, Jacob humbled himself, and at least called it a draw with Laban.
I suggest you pray for such an experience in the lives of the scoundrels in your world. It just may hasten the process.
2. Ask God to let him face his menace.
Remember dopey Esau? Turns out he may have learned a few things while his brother was gone. After Jacob sent an invitation to his own welcome-home party, here’s the reply he received in return:
“We came to your brother Esau, and he also is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him”(Genesis 32:6).
Oopsie. The last thing the big oaf had said to Jacob was he was going to kill him. It sure seemed as though Esau had a long memory.
Have you ever noticed that scoundrels are like Teflon? Nothing seems to stick to them. But every Jacob has his Esau. Every manipulator has his bullet he can’t dodge. I suggest you ask the Lord to bring your despiteful user into the crosshairs of someone who brings him to his knees. This is not to hurt, but to humble. Not to get even, but for the scoundrel to get desperate. God can do great things in the hearts of desperate men and women. And one of our greatest sources of spiritual desperation is when we have to face someone we have hurt badly. Character changes where humility and forgiveness flows.
3. Ask God to let him face his mirror.
In an epic, all-night battle with an undercover angel, Jacob sensed this was no ordinary bout. Desperate for help against possible annihilation, he clung to his opponent, somehow knowing it was God and roaring, “I will not let you go until you bless me!”
He turned and asked him a question that stabbed Isaac’s boy in the heart: “What is your name?”
He made him say it.
My. Name. Is. Cheater.
Jacob came face to face with who he was. No longer was his character a carnal badge of honor. He looked long and hard at who he was, and he called it like he saw it.
So can the people you pray for. In ways only God can orchestrate, He can bring them face to face with how they come across, much like Ebenezer Scrooge in the Dickens story. Maybe all He’s waiting for is for you to ask.
4. Ask God to let him face his Maker.
This was no ordinary man Jacob wrestled. And it was not your typical angel. Somehow, in a way only God can explain, Jacob was grappling with – and clinging to – the Lord. And suddenly his angry brother didn’t seem so scary.
Let me be clear. I’m not talking about a god of rose petals and sugar plums, telling the weasel how special he was. I’m talking about the God of the universe who nearly always had to tell somebody He faced not to be afraid. I’m talking about a consuming fire, carried by furious love and rugged, relentless, redeeming grace. And in the wrestling, Jacob found something he never wanted to let go of again.
Try praying that for the troublemakers in your life. Ask God to reveal Himself. Clearly. Powerfully. And be prepared for what may happen when He does.
One More Thought
Humility. Forgiveness. Authenticity. Revelation. That’s what you pray for a scoundrel, if we can learn anything from Jacob’s experience.
But there’s one more thing I should mention. Don’t ask me how I know this. But you need to be prepared that when you start praying for these things in the hearts of your enemies, you may first find yourself facing your own match, menace, mirror and Maker.
See, whether or not God changes your nemesis (and I think He will), I know He will change you.
And that’s a good thing. Who knows? Maybe that’s why He keeps the scoundrels in your life in the first place.