In the second set of essential elements of true prayer, Peter describes the correct feelings that accompany mutual prayer – sympathy and a tender heart. These words make it clear that true prayer involves aspects of one’s emotional life. There must be fellow-feeling for those with whom we pray and for whom we pray. In the immediate context of Peter’s readers there had to mutual concern for temporal needs because some of them had lost possessions because of persecution. One would expect those who knew them to show spiritual empathy. And there are many other aspects of life in which sympathy and tenderness are required. Sympathy and tenderness are essential features of the members of God’s family as they pray for one another.
So far Peter has focused on attitudes towards other believers, but in verse 9 he comments on attitudes towards opponents of the church. How should the Christians respond to those who engage in evil activities against them or who use offensive words against them? Peter says that they cannot repay in kind because if they do God will not answer their prayers. Instead they are to bless their opponents. Obviously he cannot mean that the Christians speak well of their actions and words.
So how could they speak of their opponents in a good way, in a manner that indicated they wanted their assailants to experience spiritual good? One obvious answer is by praying for them. Perhaps Peter recalled the words of Jesus when he said that his disciples should pray for those who abuse them (Luke 6:28). Or he may have recalled the example of Jesus when he was on the cross because he there prayed that God would forgive the soldiers who took part in the crucifixion. We can extend such praying and think about how others have been converted because people prayed for them. For example, I wonder how many people prayed for Saul of Tarsus while he was rampaging against the church and trying to crush it out of existence. There are many secrets to be revealed in heaven, and perhaps that will be one of them.