Our closest and most important relationships can be a source of great joy and fulfillment, but they can also cause extensive anxiety and sorrow. As much as we’d prefer otherwise, experience teaches that we cannot form deep connections without experiencing some degree of conflict. Hopefully, with God’s leading and grace, most of our disagreements will be short-lived and will lead to increased spiritual and emotional maturity for all involved. But what about when the rift separating us from someone feels too wide to repair?
How can we navigate these tumultuous seasons without allowing our pain to overshadow everything else?
We seek God’s help because apart from Him, our perspectives are skewed, our strength insufficient, and our hearts prone to sin.
Here are six prayers to help you weather the most challenging relational storm:
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1. Father, remind me of who I am.
When others mistreat or reject us or we haven’t behaved as we wished, we can feel defective rather than like the called, chosen, and transformed children of God Scripture states we are. We can focus on our shortcomings and failures, real or perceived, more than God’s grace at work within us. When this occurs, we need the Holy Spirit to comfort and strengthen our souls with truth.
In Ephesians 1:4-5 says, “For [God] chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will...” (NIV).
Father, you know me completely—every sin I’ve committed and every selfish and ungodly thought I’ve entertained. You know the areas I most struggle in, and how You are and will continue to infuse my greatest weaknesses with Your strength. As Psalm 139:13 states, “you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb” (NIV). In Christ, You declare me holy, made new, set apart for a glorious purpose, and radiant; Your beloved child. When I feel inadequate and discarded, remind me of these truths. Help me to believe them in the core of my being.
2. God, anchor me in Your love.
Scripture tells us that God’s perfect love casts out fear, including the fear of rejection and abandonment, both of which intensify the ache we experience during relational difficulties. But Scripture promises us a love that will never weaken, cease, or fail. We belong to and are held secure by our Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ.
In Jeremiah 31:3, God said, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness” (NIV).
God, when I feel alone and cast aside, remind me of the stability and intensity of Your love. Help me grasp its depth, height, and width, even though it is beyond human comprehension. Remind me that Your heart is and always will be for me and that You are, even now, working all things for my good and Your glory.
3. Purify my soul.
Unless we guard against this, our pain can turn to bitterness. This is often a defense mechanism to protect ourselves from pain, but it only incurs more by inflecting our other relationships and hindering our capacity for joy. We all also battle selfishness and pride, which can lead us to prove ourselves right rather than pursue healing and reconciliation. We need the ongoing purification of the Holy Spirit to honestly grieve and to heal.
1 John 1:9 promises, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (NIV, emphasis mine).
Father, thank You for your abundant mercy and grace. I know You long to see me experience joy and peace and want to keep me from the sinful attitudes and behaviors that tend to make the conflict worse and push others away. Thank You that, the moment I confess my sins, be they words I’ve spoken or things I’ve done or resentment harbored and fed, you cleanse me and flood every shadowed space in my soul with Your life-giving light.
4. Give me Your perspective.
We all view our interactions through our past experiences and woundedness. Plus, we possess a limited understanding of others. We see their behaviors but not the motivations, needs, and fears that drive them. We may not recognize and understand the root of our actions and reactions, either. This gap of information greatly affects how we perceive ourselves, others, and our circumstances, leading us to draw faulty conclusions more apt to harm than heal.
Only God can see a person’s heart, and often, a person’s reaction to us or a situation has less to do with anything in the present and more to do with the individual’s insecurities, fears, and misinterpretations stemming from past wounding. This is true for us as well. God is the only One with full and perfect knowledge. We need His supernatural insight to rightly understand ourselves and others and interpret conflict correctly. Apart from this, we risk exacerbating the problem.
In Matthew 7:3-5, Jesus provided guidelines for holding hard conversations. He said, ““Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (NIV, emphasis mine).
Father, help me to view myself and those I disagree with or who wound, and this situation that is causing me such angst, through Your eyes. Give me the courage and strength to prayerfully seek out and then remove my vision-distorting plank so that my actions and heart more accurately reflect yours.
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5. Increase my trust.
We’ve all witnessed or endured relational fissures that not only didn’t resolve but fractured completely. We’ve also all felt the sting of someone misreading our most loving or humble actions and perhaps even using those attempts against us. These experiences can threaten our hope and steal our trust in God’s ability and desire to provide us with human connection and a sense of belonging and acceptance. We may forget that He said it isn’t good for man to be alone. Scripture also tells us that He sets the lonely in families (Ps. 68:6).
When we remember that God created us to live interconnectedly with others and that our desire for community comes from Him, we’re better able to trust Him to meet our emotional needs.
Although we may not be able to salvage the relationship presently causing us stress, we can develop stronger and more fulfilling connections in the future. The more we follow God’s leading, the healthier and more spiritually and emotionally mature we become, which leads to healthier and more satisfying interactions. This is God’s heart for us.
Philippians 4:19 promises that “[Our] God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” (NIV).
Father, thank You for Your attentive care. I know that You see and understand my pain. You’re also alert to the fears and anxiety this particular conflict has stirred within me. I praise You that I have no cause for fear because You will supply all of my needs, including my need for rich and fulfilling human connection. I trust You to soften my heart and the heart of my friend and to restore our relationship, infusing it with Your joy, peace, love, and health.
6. Guide my steps.
When stumbling through relational challenges, it can feel hard to know when to speak, what to say, and when to wait and remain silent. Should we initiate conversation in an attempt to clear up misunderstandings and convey love, or would it be best to allow the person time to pray and process? When we do engage, should we express our perspectives, or will the other person take that as defensiveness or attempting to justify ourselves rather than hear their heart? How much of the issue should we address and how much should we simply cover with grace?
These questions and the fears that often accompany them—of losing a relationship, causing someone we care about pain, or opening ourselves up to hurt—can confuse and paralyze us. Thankfully, we don’t have to rely on our faulty and short-sided wisdom. God invites us to seek His guidance in every situation, during times of conflict included.
In Psalm 32:8 God promises, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you” (NIV).
Father, I don’t know how to respond in this situation, and I’m afraid of doing or saying something that will cause the relational rift to widen. My wisdom is limited and often tainted by deception and sin, but Your wisdom is perfect. Guide me by Your perfect wisdom, Lord. Reveal to me Your will, and empower me by Your Spirit to follow however You lead.
Relational storms can trigger our anxiety and defense mechanisms that, more often than not, push others away. As God’s children, possessing the indwelling Holy Spirit, we want to honor Him in how we respond, but our selfishness, fear, and pride can easily get in the way. This, along with our limited perspective, can lead to confusion rather than the confidence, love, and clarity available to us in Christ. When we turn to Him in prayer, listen for His voice, invite His cleansing presence, and then follow however He leads, we can experience the peace that surpasses understanding (Philippians 4:7), increased health, and deeper connection, if not with the person with whom we’re in conflict than with whomever God connects us with later.
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Originally published Wednesday, 22 February 2023.