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Praying People And Conflict Resolution

by Lester L. Adams
April 2010 Lester L. Adams

In the Bible, there are a number of passages that encourage the people of God to have a continual prayer life. The Gospel of Luke chapter 18, verse 1 says, “Men ought to always pray and not to lose heart (faint)”. 1st Epistle of Thessalonians chapter 5, verses 16-17, says “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing”. This article is written to allow “praying people” to see the role and importance of continual prayer in helping us settle our differences with each other as we walk through different steps of the conflict resolution process.

WE PRAY AS SOON AS TROUBLE COMES

Conflict and arguments bring great pain and heartache. Because I do not want the pain to last, and I long to live in peace, I try to immediately turn to the Lord in prayer to seek his help. Over the years of my life, I have been in enough conflict to know that I cannot settle these issues myself. Very often, how I got in conflict, and what I need to do to get out of it are mysteries to me. But not to God. He understands what I am going through, what the person that I argued with is going through, and what it will take to bring about peace between us. He has a pathway which leads to peace, and what I need to do is seek him and follow him through it. Over the years, I have seen God’s faithfulness to repeatedly move mightily on my behalf, so that I know that this statement about God at Psalms 46 verse 1 is true: “God is a very present help in the time of trouble”.

OUR PRAYER IS OFTEN TRANSFORMED BY GOD

When we come to God in prayer about the disagreement, many of us are very angry. Hatred and resentment may have set in. Sometimes we are disappointed, heartbroken or depressed. There can be a whole host of other things going on inside of us because of the effect that arguments and fighting can have on us.

Because of our feelings and pain, most of us come into our prayer closet primarily concerned about ourselves, and we seek God to deal with our hurts, our pain, our needs, and our disappointments. While these things are very important to God, God does not want our prayer focus limited to this. For this reason, God often meets us in our prayer closet, to gently influence us to transform our prayer emphasis to focus on the things that please Him instead of our own needs. When he does this, he is basically saying to us, “I know you are in pain, and I know what you need. But, seek me and my kingdom first, and I will take care of all this for you”. Jesus made this clear when he spoke to his disciples in the Sermon on the Mount: “But seek the kingdom of God first, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you”(Gospel of Matthew chapter 6, verse 33).

The apostle Paul also instructs us to be concerned about more than ourselves when he says, “ Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Epistle of Philipians, chapter 2, verse 4).

As we do those things that please God, God will work on our behalf, to help us find peace with each other: “If a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies be at peace with him” (Book of Proverbs chapter 16, verse 7).

When God meets us in our prayer closet, we have a choice to make. We can choose to continue in our own ways, and try to get him to do things our way. Most of us know by experience with God that this does not work. Or we can allow His will to overshadow ours, and have God to lead us into the prayers that please Him. The kind of prayers that please him are what we discuss in the rest of the article.

WE PRAY FOR GOD’S WILL TO BE DONE

This is what Jesus said we should pray, when he taught his disciples: “In this manner, therefore, pray, Our father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Gospel of Matthew, chapter 6, verses 9-10). God’s Will is for the people in conflict to have meaningful discussions with each other, to settle their differences and have their relationship restored: “ Moreover if thy brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother” (Gospel of Matthew chapter 18, verse 15).

Even though you may be so upset with this person who hurt you that you no longer want to speak to him, seeking God’s will means that you begin to pray for God to move on your hearts, that God bless him, open the door for discussion, and work a powerful miracle for the relationship to be restored. Although you will start off having a problem praying this prayer (because our flesh does not like it), you need to ask God to give you the grace to pray it. As you humble yourself and do this, God will soften your heart, and allow you to pray this way fervently.

WE PRAY FOR GOD TO CHANGE OUR HEARTS

At Psalm 139, verse 23-24, the Psalmist declared this prayer: “ Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me. And lead me into the way everlasting”.

When we have been in conflict, or are at odds with a brother or sister, we need to ask God to search us and uncover all the wicked ways in us because these disagreements cause us to get angry, bitter, resentful, and sometimes hateful and unforgiving. If this is the case with us, we need the Lord to “turn our hearts” and make us amenable to discuss our differences and forgive each other. Malachi chapter 4, verse 6 points out that God is able to do this, to bring reconciliation: “ And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to the fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse”.

Also, we need to ask the Lord to deal with the things in us, like pride, improper desires, and anger that cause us to start trouble with each other (see for example Proverbs chapter 13, verse 10; Book of James chapter 4, verse 1; Proverbs chapter 29, verse 22; Proverbs chapter 10, verse 12). We need the Lord to free us of these things so that we do not end up in the “cycle of conflict” that will cause us to get in trouble over and over for the same reasons.

WE PRAY FOR THE PERSON WE ARE AT ODDS WITH

This is what Jesus told his disciples to do when he spoke to them in the Sermon on the Mount: “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be the sons of your Father in heaven” (Gospel of Matthew chapter 5, verses 44-45a). This means that we are to display God’s agape love in action, which includes praying for them. Since this passage says love your enemies, this means we should show this same kind of love to those we are in contention with whether or not they qualify as enemies.

When we are in conflict with people, the truth is that we are not ready or able to show them the kind of love Jesus is telling us to. Most of us also do not want to pray for the people who hurt us. In order to begin to move in obedience to this impossible calling, we must first ask God to give us the grace (his enabling power) to make it possible for us to pray for this person. Before God releases the grace, God may deal with us about our unforgiveness and hardened heart towards the person we are at odds with to get us to repent (confess it as sin and be forgiven of it by Him). He does this because these things keep us from praying properly for the person. They also hinder our ability to worship God (see Book of Isaiah chapter 59, verses 1 and 2). As God gives us the grace, we can begin to pray for them.

Praying for your enemy may not make sense to you, but I want to point out a few reasons why God wants us to do this. The first reason is that God uses prayer to start to connect us to the people we are at odds with. As we ask God to help the person we are at odds with, God is connecting us with them in the spirit realm, which He plans to follow up with by connecting us together in the natural realm (by causing us to be at peace with each other, to build or rebuild relationships).

Making this kind of connection was one of the reasons why I believe that God had Abraham to pray for Abimelech when they were in conflict with each other. These two men were at odds with each other because Abraham, out of fear, misled Abimelech to believe that Sarah, his wife, was his sister. And, because Abimelech thought that the beautiful Sarah was a free and single woman, he took this married woman to become a part of his harem.

Taking another man’s wife could bring a curse on Abimelech and his land. Also, the whole situation could cause these men to have a terrible fight when Abimelech learned that Abraham had lied to him. This was a terrible mess that only God could fix. When God intervened, his solution included having Abraham pray for Abimelech: “Now therefore, restore the man’s (Abraham’s) wife; for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you shall live” (Book of Genesis chapter 20, verse 7).

This prayer, which blessed Abimelech, helped connect the two men. The disagreement ended, and the door opened for these men to have more meaningful discussions and build a good relationship. The result was that Abraham lived in the land of the Philistines for many days (See Book of Genesis chapter 21, verses 22- 34). The second thing that this prayer does is change our hearts towards the person we disagree with. Most of the time, we start off angry with them. But, as we pray for them, God begins to take away our anger towards them, and replaces it with love for them. When this occurs, we can pray fervently for God to bless them and do a miracle work in their lives.

One of the things that I have recently started to advise people in conflict who come to me for counsel is to pray for the healing of the person that they have hurt.

This counsel makes them think about the suffering they have caused. And when the deep pain the other person feels becomes real to them, God often gives them a “compassion” for one they hurt. This causes them to ask God to quickly bring the injured person out of their suffering.

Our attitude in this needs to be like Jabez’s, who had a desire in his heart to cause pain to no one. We see this desire in his prayer to God: “ And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, Oh that you would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that your hand would be with me, and that you would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain. And God granted him what he requested” (1st Book of Chronicles chapter 4, verse 10). When we desire to cause no pain, we also try to quickly end the other person’s heartache whenever we hurt them.

A third powerful and profound thing happens when you are praying effectively for the person you disagreed with. If they are also praying this same way that you are (for the well-being of each other), the two of you are praying prayers of agreement that God’s will be done, “in earth as it is in heaven”. These prayers of agreement are the kind that God answers: “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven” (Gospel of Matthew chapter 18, verse 19). When two people pray this way, and continue to remain open to see each other blessed, a move of God’s Spirit that brings in conflict resolution is not far away.

A fourth thing that happens when we pray this way is that sometimes God will also give us revelation that this conflict has come because of Satan’s attacks, which are designed to separate us and cause us to be pitted against each other. Such insight is given to get us to quickly put down our swords of opposition against each other, and join forces to stand together against Satan and his kingdom. Jesus spoke of this when he discussed “binding and loosing” and the “prayer of agreement” as he discussed the issue of conflict resolution in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 18, verses 18-20: “Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be doe for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there in the midst of them”. As the people in conflict come together in the name of the Lord, they bind Satan’s forces (render them powerless), and they put them to flight. This is what the book of James chapter 4, verses 7, says: “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you”.

A fifth thing that sometimes happens when we pray for those who oppose us with the right heart attitude, is that God moves in our lives in a special way. We see this in the example of Job, when God asked him to pray for his friends. This passage reveals how God blessed Job as he did this: “ And the Lord restored Job’s losses when he prayed for his friends. Indeed the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before” (Book of Job, chapter 42, verse 10).

As God leads us to pray such powerful prayers for the person we are at odds with, he then makes it possible for us to show them the love Jesus said we should. Without the prayer and the change of heart, we have no ability to show this love. This is why the prayer comes first, and the love follows after it.

This prayer that changes hearts also usher in God’s presence, and tears down the walls of resistance that had separated you from this person even before you come together to talk, Because of this, it lays the foundation for God to reconcile you when you have discussions.

WE PRAY AS A PART OF OUR DISCUSSIONS

The Book of James chapter 5, verses 15 and 16 reveals how prayer plays an integral part in our discussions to settle the disagreement: “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much”.

When the people in conflict try to please God like this, God answers their request, and provides them an atmosphere of peace, which makes discussion easier. Book of Phillippians chapter 4, verses 6-7 reveal how such peace comes through prayer: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your request be made known to God: and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus”. This peace allows us to think clearly and function effectively when we come together.

Because God has changed the hearts of the people in conflict, they are willing to be open and honest, admitting their faults to each other instead of holding back or trying to hide their wrongdoing (To see such openness and willingness to share and resolve problems, review the dialogue between Abraham and Abimelech at Book of Genesis chapter 21, verses 22-34). In such an atmosphere, God can move mightily and cause people to quickly forgive each other and make amends to each other for the wrongs done.

If there are times during the discussion where the people in conflict come to an impasse or cannot resolve an issue, they can bow down together and seek God’s intervention. When prayers of agreement like this come from humble hearts, God is there, and He often answers speedily. I need to point out that, most of the time the people in conflict are fighting and contending with each other during discussion time, and it is a rare occasion when you see the people in conflict praying together. I think this is a sign that many of us are trying to settle conflict our own way, instead of a way that pleases God.

What also flows out of this unity and God’s power is healing. Because the people in conflict were open and receptive to a move of God, God does a complete work in them. Not only does the disagreement end, the people in conflict are healed of the hurt, pain, anger, and frustration, allowing them to move forward in unity and work together. This work of transformation is spoken of in the Book of Isaiah chapter 2, verse 4: “ They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks”. The “swords and spears” represent weapons of opposition used for destruction, while the “plowshares and pruninghooks” are work tools to farm with used to bring growth, harvest and blessing. Because of God’s work, the people who were at odds are now able to do a powerful work of God’s kingdom together.

YOU PRAY EVEN WHEN THE OTHER PERSON DOES NOT

This kind of miracle, which is a beautiful thing to behold, works well when both people in conflict are willing to yield to God, and operate by the principles he sets out in his Word. This is good when every one is working together. But, what happens when you are praying for the other person’s and they choose not to follow God’s plan or pray for you ?

If your ways please God, God’s promise at Proverbs chapter 16, verse 7 that “he will make your enemies be at peace with you”, will still come to pass. If the people you disagree with are uncooperative, they will not be able to hold to you hostage and keep you bound in conflict the rest of your days. God, in his sovereignty, will end the conflict in some other way.

We see this in the story of Abraham’s son Isaac and the strife he had with the herdsmen of Gerar (Entire story is at Genesis chapter 26, verses 19- 23). When Isaac’s men dug a well and found water, these herdsmen claimed the well as their own. Instead of fighting with these men , Isaac walked away and continued to be fruitful. As soon as he dug another well and found water, the herdsmen of Gerar also claimed that well as their own. This conflict was very intense. Although Isaac was a man of peace, who was amenable to talk and resolve his differences, these men were not. Because of these men’s contentiousness, it looked like this conflict would continue on without ever ending. But, suddenly, God quickly stopped it. When Isaac moved to the next location, for some reason these men did not fight for this new well they found. Isaac knew that God had done this for him, so he named the well Rehoboth as a testimony to what God had done for him: “So he called its name Rehoboth, because he said, For now the Lord has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land” (Genesis chapter 26, verse 22).

Very often, when men are so stubborn that they will not stop fighting, God has to step in and end the conflict just as it appears he did with Isaac. At other places in scripture, God’s sovereign action to end conflict are mentioned. At Psalm 110, verse 1, the Psalmist declares: “ The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool”. This describes how God cuts off our enemies.

Another passage which reveals this is Psalm 46, verse 9: “He (God) makes wars to cease to the ends of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariots in the fire”. Sometimes, God has to break people’s weapons of warfare to stop them from fighting.

Another scripture that confirms this truth is Isaiah chapter 2, verses 4: “And he shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore”. Judgment and rebuke are strong steps of correction that God sometimes has to take when people continue to fight with out stopping.

God may have did one of these things to stop the men of Gerar from contending with Isaac over these wells. These passages make it clear that God will at some point bring peace when you do what pleases him no matter what the person that disagrees with you does.

CONCLUSION

I hope that this article is a help and blessing to you.

Biography


Lester L. Adams is an attorney, author, a trained mediator and arbitrator, and an ordained minister. Lester has been a mediator and arbitrator for the following organizations: National Association Of Securities Dealers; National Arbitration Forum; Better Business Bureau; New York Stock Exchange; Circuit Court Of Baltimore County, and the Maryland Human Relations Commission. Lester has been an ordained Elder since 1994, and he currently serves in that role in a church called New Covenant Tabernacle. Lester also heads up Pursuing Peace Ministries, a ministry that mediates conflict, and teach, trains, and equips congregations and church leaders to make peace. Over the years some of the teaching series Lester has conducted for congregations include, “Becoming A Man of Peace”, "Developing Good Relationships In The Church" and "Anger And Conflict". Lester also has published two books on resolving conflict, God’s Power Released (Amazon.com, 2014) and Preparation For Resolution: Biblical Strategies For Conflict Resolution (Amazon.com, 2014).



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