When Bullies Come to Church (And Why We Should Keep On Praying)

034 About a year and a half ago, a bully came to church. Now, he was small. Like maybe three, but he was in Gideon’s Sunday school class and he was mean. Gideon has recounted the day, in vivid details, many times for me.

“Momma, his eyes looked like this,” (glares eyes) “and his face looked like this,” (squints eyes and shows teeth) “and he sat on top of me and I couldn’t get up.”

“He just kept getting me. I didn’t have time to ask for help.”

“He didn’t get my cupcake, though. I don’t know why he didn’t try to get my cupcake. But, I’m glad he didn’t eat my cupcake.”


And even though that bully only came to church, like once, from that moment on, Gideon wouldn’t set foot in another Sunday school class. Pretty much he wouldn’t go anywhere without us. And there was no speaking logic into him. We could say, “Gideon, we’re gonna be right upstairs. You’re safe, see? Everybody here is your friend. And besides, the teachers will come and get us if you need us.”

But, no. He wasn’t buying it. He was sure another scary mean bully dude would show up and sit on him again and pound his face and eat his snacks. There was no convincing him otherwise. Believe me, we tried every reasoning tactic. For a year and a half, we tried. But, when your soul is torn, you can try to drill some sense into your head, but it doesn’t quite work unless someone can help you heal your heart.


So, we tended to his heart. First, I tried explaining that we’re all bullies sometimes and we all need forgiveness. So, we practiced forgiveness. We couldn’t remember the bully’s name, so we gave him a new name and we said it out loud, “Elijah, I forgive you.” And then we imagined him all filled up with love and no longer being a bully.

Then we recalled Jesus’ words about blessing our enemies, so we practiced blessing him. When we thought about him, we’d pray for him, that maybe his daddy would show back up in his life again and love on him, or that his momma would have the strength she needed to take care of him and the wisdom she needed to know how to teach him to be kind.

And when the fear ebbed, seemingly out of the clear blue, while playing out in the yard even, I’d try to speak it calm and reassuring, “Gideon, God hasn’t given you that spirit of fear. But, He’s given you a spirit of power and of love and a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7)

And all this was well and good, but the panic still pounded and the wound still festered and Gideon still wailed every time we attempted to take him to his class. Hopey even tried to do some comforting, “Gideon, it’s okay. If you get scared, I’ll just be right beside you.” I think he just felt a bit confused at how his little sister could be so brave.


Well, we’re a part of this ministry and once a year, all the staff get together each morning for a week, out at the family camp. And while all the grown-ups are gathered together, the kids have these super fun classes where they get to play games, and eat snacks and make a craft and read stories. Well, last year, Gideon absolutely refused to be a part of them. And we weren’t sure if he was going to go this year because, remember, all year long he’s been plumb sceered, even though he desperately wants to be considered brave.

So, I had called my momma last week and asked her to pray. And the week before, Brent’s momma said she’d prayed every day for a whole week, that Gideon wouldn’t be afraid anymore. And wouldn’t you know that this week, for the first time since, you know, the bully incident, Gideon walked right on in and didn’t even blink.

Brent and I could hardly believe it. Because, folks, that really is a miracle. At least it is to us. I really do believe that the prayers of his Grandma and Nanny are how my little boy’s heart got healed.

Gideon climbed out of the van yesterday and I hugged him big and we both celebrated, how God has washed his fears away. I told him about his Grandma’s and his Nanny’s prayers and he said it most seriously, “Yeah, well, if they keep praying for me, I might get so brave that I’ll be the bravest kid there!”


Keep praying for the folks you love, friends. Because when we pray for each other, it’s kind of like we’re all standing around the one in need. Like, even though we may be world’s apart, we’re holding on tight and banding together, all around about them and asking God to intervene.

We pray because even though we don’t know how to fix torn souls, God does and when we pray, we invite the Medic to mend. We bring to Him our very real lives with our very real needs and He goes to work. I don’t know why God would have it this way—why He would include us when He could accomplish things just fine without us asking, but He wants us to be a part, so He tells us to pray. And it’s through the pathway of prayer that He aims to heal the world.

Hearts get healed and souls grow stronger when we pray.

“Jesus told his disciples a story so that they would be encouraged to keep praying and not lose heart.” (from John 18:1)


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