If you truly love and pray for those who slander and maltreat you, who hate and defraud you, you will make rapid progress, for when your heart is fully aware that this is happening, your thoughts and, indeed, your whole soul with all its three powers [faith, hope and love] are drawn down into the depths of humility and washed with tears.- St. Symeon the New Theologian, One Hundred and Fifty-Three Practical and Theological Texts
Matthew 5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
I don’t know about you, but praying for ones enemies is really, really hard for me. I tend to hate people and things very easily, especially when they don’t conform to my world view and especially when they are in direct opposition to my beliefs, be they religious or political.
I remember the first time I prayed for an enemy, I sat there for almost an hour trying over and over to get the words out, but they just did not seem to want to come out. It was like trying to throw up some bad food that had given me an upset stomach but not actually made me sick to the point of vomiting.
Yet when I did get the words out, it was like nothing I had ever felt before, I felt renewed and energized, I felt clean and for days after I had an unshakable peace with the world and everyone in it.
Jesus told us to pray for those who persecute us, which is easier said than done. How do you ask God to bless someone you hate or who is hurting you when all you wish is the worst to happen to them? You just do it. I had to fight myself to get the words out, but with each blessing I asked God to give my enemies the easier it became until I was almost joyous in my prayer.
Proverbs 25:21 If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat,
and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink,
22 for you will heap burning coals on his head,
and the Lord will reward you.
When I think on praying for ones enemies I come to the conclusion that it is not really the person(s) that I hate, but rather the sin that is inside them. As I prayed for Jesus to deliver them to salvation I came to the realization that I was praying for the destruction of my enemy, but that through that destruction would emerge a brother in Christ, freed for the sins that made him my enemy.
2 Corinthians 10: 3 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 6 being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.
It is not the flesh and blood people, who do us wrong, that are our enemies, but rather the sins that abide in them that are the enemy. Knowing this it is a lot easier to pray for those who do wicked things, like ISIS who decapitate and crucify our brothers and sisters in Christ, or the liberals who promote the foulest kinds of depravity here in the West.
In this spiritual war we are soldiers for Christ, whether we want to be or not, and good soldiers obey orders and one of our orders is to pray for our enemies. It is hard to obey, it is hard to do, but if you just do it you will find that God rewards you with blessings of your own. One of the many blessings is that it frees you from your hate and that goes a long way to deepening your connection to God and that alone makes it all worth while.
What are some prayers you could be saying for your “enemies?”