Nobody likes conflict. Especially in ministry/church settings. (If you do, I suggest taking some time to pray!) But conflict is an unavoidable part of life, and when it comes, it can provide an opportunity to experience God’s sanctifying work in our hearts—depending on how we walk through it.
How can we harness situations of conflict to make the most of them? These prayers do not completely answer that question, and of course some kinds of conflict are so severe, or provoked by such blatant sin, that they really call for a more decisive response. But even in extreme situations, prayers like these may prove a good starting point. And in the milder conflict we experience in the body of Christ on a regular basis, meditating on prayers like these could defuse much conflict before it even starts.
1. Lord, give me a heart of mercy.
In Ephesians 4:32, Paul links his call to forgiveness with a call to tender-heartedness and kindness (“be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another”). God doesn’t merely call us to practice forgiveness—he calls us to practice a particular quality of forgiveness marked by warmth, joy, and the aroma of the gospel (“as in Christ God forgave you”).
Praying for a heart of mercy does not mean we lay aside legal redress or accountability for future wrongdoing. But it does mean we desire reconciliation and fellowship more than than winning; that we seek to redirect evil and look for pathways by which to turn it to good; that we absorb pain in order to aim at restoration and peace. “A harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (James 3:18).
To pray for a heart of mercy amid conflict can be excruciatingly difficult, especially if you’ve been deeply sinned against. It feels a little bit like dying. It may require us to persevere in prayer for those who have wronged us, and “pray until we’ve prayed,” as the Puritans used to say. Above all, it will require a heart full of Christ’s own kindness, tenderheartedness, and forgiveness for us, from which we draw strength to practice the same.
2. Lord, help me to stay positive amid negativity.
It’s easy to get sucked into negativity. Nietzsche said, “Those who fight monsters should be careful lest they become monsters.” It’s easy to react against a real problem, but in the process become tainted by what we react against. For example, you rebuke the hot-headed and the aggressive, and find yourself getting a little heated. In observing the Pharisee, you notice judgments in your own heart against them. In sensing the pride of your neighbor, you find your own ego provoked (remember pride is essentially competitive). Perhaps that is why Paul, after calling for the restoration of the sinner, immediately adds, “Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted” (Gal. 6:1).
In order to keep unstained by the negativity and backbiting that conflict often engenders, we need to keep our eyes on Jesus. Stephen, the church’s first martyr, provides us with a wonderful example. When others gnash their teeth at him and stone him to death, he directs his eyes upward to heaven, where he sees the risen Christ in his glory (Acts 7:54-58). With his eyes fixed on Jesus, he is liberated to pray for the forgiveness of his enemies (Acts 7:60).
In order to “overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21) in the midst of conflict, we need to follow Stephen’s example of keeping our eyes above the fray of the gnashing teeth and stones being hurled at us, and defining our situation by the ulterior reality and realm of Christ. As Robert Murray McCheyne put it, “For every look at self—take ten looks at Christ! Live near to Jesus—and all things will appear little to you in comparison with eternal realities.”
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SOURCE: The Gospel Coalition