Step One: Don't.
Don't mention his name. Don't talk about him. Don't think about him unless your mom is calling you with some sort of update. Avoid any mention of him in any way. Make clear you have a step-dad, not a dad, in hopes that it will make others uncomfortable enough to not ask about your dad. (It works.)
Even when his face pops up on LinkedIn and you feel bombarded and also like you are trapped in a life where this man haunts you, don't. God may be trying to get your attention, but you stayed silent when you knew there were red flags - you stuck your head in the sand and are living with the consequences - and now you will be silent in prayer.
You are having a hard time forgiving yourself, and you are tired of forgiving him.
Step Two: Justify your silence.
Because he doesn't deserve your care, your words, your hearts. He doesn't deserve prayers for safety. Not once has he asked for prayer - he has tried to justify all his actions, but never asks for help unless he's trying to get you to believe a lie.
Think about the fifth commandment - to honour your father and mother. This is always where your justification gets a little blurry. Then remember: he didn't even claim you as his daughter when he was spinning a web of lies. You were his niece; only his daughter when you were in his presence or when it was convenient to him. The Bible's less clear on honouring your uncle.
Step Three: Avoid praying completely.
"It's all out of my control - you've shown me that much - so why pray anyway?"
You are mad - and there is one thing, one person, you know you need to pray for, and you just can't bring yourself to do it. So you avoid praying completely. It feels as though this is a key - you will bring awkward and clumsy prayers, until you are honest with God about the hurting, and until you pray for this one person.
You are saving prayer for when you can get it just right, and you cannot get it just right at this moment.
Step Four: Read books.
You hear a podcast about unanswered prayer. You cry as you drive into work, and once your car is parked, you put a hold on a book about unanswered prayer.
You read it as you fly back home, and you cry on the airplane. You devour this book, instead of actually praying, because maybe this will be the key, maybe this will give you the answers. maybe this will tell you what has happened to prayers you fervently prayed from age 10 - 23.
About 100 pages in, you set it down and do not pick it up again. It is too close to home, but it does not have the answers you are looking for.
Your silence stretches longer.
Step Five: Pray through gritted teeth.
Pray: "Teach me how to love my enemies and the people I do not want to love."
Think: "Loving my enemies includes loving my dad. I do not want to love this enemy. I do not want to love him anymore."
Optional: a hard and bitter heart. Yelling. Stream of conscious anger. Grief. Not understanding.
Step Six: Pray with grace and compassion.
You want to make clear to God - you are not opening the door to reconciliation. You are not doing this because your dad deserves this. But because you do not control endings, and God does.
You try to pray with grace and compassion because your hard and bitter heart needs to soften.
Can you pray with a soft heart and gritted teeth? Can your prayers just be groans, or grunts, or shrieks?
You try to pray with this posture because you can whine about being stuck, but you are cementing yourself in anger and bitterness. You want to be known for having grace and compassion. You don't want to be known as the girl who froze to death with her feet in cement.
Alternate between step five and step six most days. Stay in step five longer than you may like. Try step six for a day. Go back to step five. Continue as necessary.
Step Seven: Pray with open hands.
Because, you know so deeply, you don't control the endings. Oh, how you have fought that reality.
Sometimes, praying for healing - both for you and for someone else - can be what softens your heart. Just open your hands, and little by little, let this earthly father go with prayer.
One day, you'll move from the groans and grunts and shrieks, the journal pages full of anger and "why why why" and lyrics like, "If you're not done working, God, I'm not done waiting."
And then maybe you'll pray, "God, keep him safe." "God, help him make one good decision today." "God, keep him honest." "God, let his conscience be louder than his impulses and instincts." They will be the hardest four to ten word prayers you have ever uttered.
And there really is no "how to" article that will tell you exactly how to do this. You will probably go through some variation of these steps for the rest of your life. You will probably say "I don't know" more than you will ever have answers. This is the not-so-hopeful, not-so-great news.
I don't know what the hopeful, great news is yet. This is about all I can say for sure:
If you're feeling a little lost and a little mixed up, if you are choosing silence because you do not know how to pray, + if your heart has the scars on it that only come from a dad who carelessly set his daughters heart down,
You're not alone.
Let's muddle towards the answers and prayers together.