I’ve met a number people I haven’t liked; I’ve known a few individuals I strongly disliked. Even though she’s been dead for two decades, Nora still holds first place at the top of my list.
I could write about many things she did (and especially what she said). Mostly it was unsubstantiated gossip passed on as fact; occasionally she lied (and even grudgingly admitted it once). I was her pastor and for the first few months she tried to tell me who needed help. Her needs-help suggestions were usually tidbits of gossip.
I tried to talk with her several times, but she fiercely defended her actions and her most frequent response was, “I’m only trying to help people.”
I prayed for Nora every day and with great fervency. Usually I prayed with a word I remembered from the King James Version of the Bible: Requite. “Requite her for her sins.” It was a better-sounding word than punish or condemn and means “to pay back” usually for rendered service. That word made me feel more virtuous.
Many days I reminded the Lord of the evil she had done and the people she had injured. And, of course, I pointed out that she had also hurt my feelings. “Requite her for her sins.”
No matter how much I prayed, Nora didn’t change.
One day as I studied my Bible I paused when I read these words: “Bless those who persecute you” (Romans 12:14a, NRSV). I thought about Nora, but decided she didn’t persecute me, so that seemed to exclude me from blessing her; however, the rest of the verse reads: “bless and do not curse them.”
I almost got past that statement until I realized that although I prayed for Nora each day, I didn’t bless her, and I certainly didn’t speak evil against her.
Or did I? “Bless and do not curse,” the words reminded me. I wasn’t actually cursing her, only asking God to give her what she deserved — what I felt she deserved.
That’s when I realized that Nora might never change, but I could. Since that day and every day (until I moved away) I prayed for divine blessings on her. She still didn’t change, but I was able to accept her as a hurting woman.
She had to be a sad, hurting woman to have so much venom and poison flow from her lips. Once I could see her as pain-filled, I was able to pray compassionately for her.
Learning to pray for Nora was an invaluable lesson in my life.
This author can be found also at www.cecilmurphey.com. *This article was originally written/published by the author under the title “Praying for Nora.”