“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you.” Matthew 5:44
When I read these words as a young college student, I couldn’t really say that my little brother was my enemy, but it certainly felt like he was trying to persecute me at times! Our sibling challenges were what you might imagine. When I read this verse one day while on a break from college courses, I felt that God was calling me to pray for my little brother. I was specifically led to pray for him as he struggled to catch up in reading and writing after a hard childhood interrupted by cancer. As I prayed, my annoyance with him was transformed into patient love. I ended up dedicating my semester off school to help him grow in his reading. It was the first time I had witnessed prayer transform my heart toward another person, and it stuck with me for the rest of my life. God was showing me that when a seed of love is watered with prayer, it can really bloom.
I am so thankful that God let me learn this important spiritual principle when I was young. It was a critical part of how God led me to marry my husband, Travis. Travis was friends with my brothers, and they all lived in Broken Bow, NE. He and I met when my brothers invited him on our family vacation in January 2014. We hit it off right away and had been dating long-distance for a couple of months when he came to visit me in California. The visit ended on Valentine’s Day, and I thought it had been real, promising and wonderful. I realized that Travis Wood was exactly the man I had been asking God to send to me for a lot of years. I knew I was in love and was confident he cared for me.
The trip left a different set of emotions with Travis, however, and after a few days of soul searching, he called me and said that he needed to break up with me, in order to figure out some things in his own heart and mind. He left me with the hope that, should God sort things out for him, he thought I was the right woman for him, but he couldn’t get things sorted and maintain a relationship with me at the same time.
I was devastated. My first reaction was to try and shut my heart off to Travis to shut off the pain. Thankfully, God immediately spoke to my heart through His Word and other trusted people, including my parents. He led me to take all of the hurt, feelings of rejection and fear and leave them at the Cross. He allowed me to maintain the seed of love he had planted in my heart, and I began to pray. I prayed whenever I felt pain, whenever I felt joy, whenever I felt tired of waiting, whenever I felt angry, whenever I had free-time. Sometimes, I prayed for Travis for hours in a day. I refused to distract myself with entertainment and sleep and, in Christ’s strength, I fought off the desire to hide hurt behind anger or indifference. I prayed through the Psalms; I prayed for his heart, for my heart and for God’s sovereign will to be done. I kept my prayers in a journal, sometimes bemoaning the long wait for any answer and sometimes rejoicing greatly at God’s action on our behalf. During this time, God took that seed of love in my heart and watered it. In a way that only God could manage, in the separation and time of silence between us, my love for Travis moved far beyond feeling “in love” to becoming something deeper, more selfless and more lasting.
God answered my prayers with power and amazing grace after a “long” wait. (OK, it was nine weeks, but I was in love!) Travis felt that he could confidently enter back into a relationship with me and because of my prayer life during our time apart, I was able to receive that relationship without hesitation. I knew it was all in answer to my surrendered, but fervent prayer. We were engaged only a month later, and since then God has bestowed on us more blessing that I could have imagined, in our marriage and with our beautiful daughter, Eva, born last July.
I share this personal story to encourage you. If there is a broken relationship in your life, a friendship that’s been wounded, an impossible family situation or any wound related to another person that is making love a difficult thing to find in your heart- pray for that person. Pray when you feel like it and when you don’t. Let prayer become the water that Christ uses to makes love bloom in your heart!