“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27-28, English Standard Version).
If you are like me, you probably have several “routine” things you include during your personal prayer time—family, friends, missionaries, the local church, the pastor, the lost, and those who are ill. I try to be detailed, including names and specific situations as they come to mind. I must confess, I seldom think to pray for those who may hate me or have caused me grief.
Luke gave us quite a to-do list in the above verses: love, do good, bless, pray. None of those are easy when we’re talking about the difficult people in our lives.
Have you ever wondered who may have prayed for Saul, persecutor of the early church, to be saved? This is the man described in Acts 9:1 as “breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord.” No, he didn’t just want to give them a few bruises and some stern warnings. He wanted to kill them. His hatred of this new sect was intense. Picture yourself as one of those being tracked down by this cruel oppressor. What would your prayer have been? Bless him—or strike him dead? It’s easy to pray for God to give someone his just due, but it’s not as easy to love them and pray for God to bless them.
“For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” (Matthew 5:45, ESV). “Do not return evil for evil or insult for insult, but instead bless others because you were called to inherit a blessing” (I Peter 3:9, ESV).
Why do you think God insists we pray for those who persecute and abuse us? Could it be because it is difficult to hate someone and pray for God to bless them at the same time? If we make prayer our highest priority, it is easier to love, do good toward, and bless that person who has caused us grief.
How do we pray for our enemies?
- Pray for their salvation.
- Pray their evil actions will be restrained.
- Pray you will not develop a vengeful spirit.
Will it always happen as it did in the life of Saul/Paul? Will the person we pray for do a complete turnaround? Hopefully yes, but not always. What will happen is we will find peace. Praying for them will free us from feelings of hatred, vindictiveness, and bitterness.
Praying for our enemies may be difficult, but ultimately we are the one who is blessed.
Prayer: Lord, help me to pray for blessings and mercy in the life of the one who has made themselves my enemy. Keep my heart pure before You so I will not seek vengeance or become bitter. Show me any wrong attitudes I may have toward that person, and help me to seek only their good. You have been merciful to me, so please help me to extend that same mercy to others. Turn their heart toward You that they might be saved.