Note: there are times when the prescription for dealing with an N is to avoid them. This post is for those times when we cannot do that.
When we are in a difficult situation with a narcissist we might be given the prescription to “pray about it”. This might be given with good intentions, but often without real understanding of what’s going on. It’s always appropriate to bring God right into the middle of our problems. But how we pray makes all the difference.
There are a few ways we can pray through our N challenge. One is how we pray for ourselves. Another is how we pray about specific ways of navigating our interface with them, or dealing with the fallout of the turmoil they create. And yet another is how we pray for them. This Part 1 gives an introduction of how we pray for them.
Jesus made the following difficult statement:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
Some people have criticized the Biblical approach to dealing with narcissists by suggesting that it’s simply a posture of passively allowing ourselves to be beaten up. Jesus’s statement above and his statement just prior to “turn the other cheek” might be construed as advocating just that. However, this critique looks at things on simply a human “me vs. them” plane, and leaves out the fact that we can invite the God who has the power to create and hold together the entire universe right into the middle of our struggle.
Jesus’ admonition to “pray for those who persecute you” did not describe “how” to pray. How we pray makes all the difference. For example, David prayed for his enemies like this in Psalm 35,
Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me;
Fight against those who fight against me.
2 Take hold of buckler and shield
And rise up for my help.
3 Draw also the spear and the battle-axe to meet those who pursue me;
Say to my soul, “I am your salvation.”
4 Let those be ashamed and dishonored who seek my life;
Let those be turned back and humiliated who devise evil against me.
5 Let them be like chaff before the wind,
With the angel of the Lord driving them on.
6 Let their way be dark and slippery,
With the angel of the Lord pursuing them.
7 For without cause they hid their net for me;
Without cause they dug a pit for my soul.
8 Let destruction come upon him unawares,
And let the net which he hid catch himself;
Into that very destruction let him fall.
I suggest you read the entire Psalm 35. God says in Romans 12:19 (quoting Deuteronomy 32:35) that “vengeance is Mine, I will repay.” Our job is to do good, God’s job is to defend us and execute justice – as only He can do with complete wisdom. David focused on doing right, and prayed that God would deal with his enemies.
Can we also pray in a strong way for our narcissist, that does them good? The answer is yes.
The narcissist’s greatest need is to humble themselves before the almighty God of the universe. Their insolent pride torments us, but you can be sure that God feels more strongly about it than we do. God demonstrated His ability to humble those who walk in pride by humbling the greatest man in the world of the time – King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. God dealt with Nebuchadnezzar over a period of 30 years, continuing to reveal Himself and help Nebuchadnezzar understand his place before God. In the end, God took very strong action for Nebuchadnezzar to finally recognize God as the Lord, by making Nebuchadnezzar insane and living like an animal for 7 years until he finally submitted. The result was this amazing statement by Nebuchadnezzar:
34 “But at the end of that period, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever;
For His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
And His kingdom endures from generation to generation.
35 “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
But He does according to His will in the host of heaven
And among the inhabitants of earth;
And no one can ward off His hand
Or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’
36 At that time my reason returned to me. And my majesty and splendor were restored to me for the glory of my kingdom, and my counselors and my nobles began seeking me out; so I was reestablished in my sovereignty, and surpassing greatness was added to me.
37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just,
and He is able to humble those who walk in pride.”
Part of Nebuchadnezzar’s humbling process was God’s persistent revelation of His greatness and glory, as discussed in Ephesians 1.
Jesus tells us to pray for our narcissist, but why not pray strongly? First pray that God would protect us from them and that their attempts to harm us would fail. Second, pray that God would humble them and enlighten their eyes to see God’s greatness and themselves in light of that greatness. And third, to make sure our hearts are right and to act as “sons of light”, we can also pray for a specific need they may have – either for their salvation, or some practical need.
If you are married to someone who is a genuine Christian, but still has the residual narcissistic blind spots from their “old man” (Romans 6), ask God to reveal it to them, convict them of it, and bring them to genuine repentance.
Pray for your narcissist – but pray strongly.