There are many steps you need to take to heal from the tragedy of divorce, some sensible and palatable, but other steps seem impossible, ridiculous, and downright out of the question. One of those for many people is the suggestion to pray for their ex-spouse.
The mere mention of taking this step to someone who has lost their marriage can cause intense hurt and anger—emotions that I’ve experienced myself—so I hope as you read this you will take it as a gentle reminder from someone who has walked in your shoes.
I know the suggestion to pray for your ex-spouse can seem like you’re being asked to ignore all the injustices and travesties your ex-spouse has forced upon you. It can seem like asking you to ignore your hurt and disappointment, sweep it all under a rug, and just keep smiling. It feels like an insult and makes you hurt even more.
The indignance you might feel is a natural reaction, but one that must be tempered with a supernatural attitude—one that keeps in mind the love of Christ for all people and the example He gave us in the way He lived His life. If you’re struggling with the idea of praying for your ex-spouse, here are a few points to reflect upon:
First, no one was too lost for Jesus.
Jesus dined with sinners and tax collectors—the ones who brought fear and loathing to the people of their towns. They were the people who no one wanted to deal with. People who did terrible things. If you brought that example into today’s world, it would be like Jesus having dinner with the terrorists who brought down the Twin Towers on 9/11. Shocking, isn’t it?
And he didn’t just eat with them, he talked to them. He tried to change their hearts through friendship and truth. You may not be in a position to do this with your ex-spouse, but you can pray for them. Jesus told us:
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5:44).
Jesus never minced words and his directive here applies to us today, no matter how hurt we are.
Second, reflect upon the parable of the lost sheep:
Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
So He told them this parable, saying, “What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? “When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. “And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ (Luke 15: 1-6).
Why is this important? Because it reveals the lengths that Christ will go to to bring back a lost soul. His question asking who wouldn’t leave their flock to go after one sheep is ridiculous if you look at it from a practical standpoint. Of course no one would leave 99 sheep to go in search of one! Shepherds are paid to maintain the flock.
But this is what Jesus is trying to tell us. He loves us so much that no one is too lost to Him—not even your ex-spouse. No matter how insidious his or her crimes against you are, Jesus is targeting your ex-spouse and He wants him/her back in the fold, so it makes sense that He would ask you to pray for your ex-spouse.
I say all this to you, knowing that there are a lot of you who have been through a divorce and already pray for your ex-spouses; maybe you have done so from the start. I commend you for this and encourage you to continue this practice.
But for anyone who struggles with the idea of praying for your ex-spouse, I further encourage you to consider this step to healing. Not only will it help you lay down your arms, so to speak, but you will be taking part in Christ’s salvific work and that, my friends, builds treasure in heaven that no divorce lawyer can take away from you.