MsDora, former teacher and Christian counselor presents practical Scriptural principles for joyful everyday living.
If we think of life as a game, our enemies are those people who intentionally try to prevent us from winning. Some of their vicious deeds include fighting us, pushing us face down, robbing us, misleading us and misrepresenting us—all done with an obvious animosity. Praying for them is not our instinctive response, but it may be the best thing we can do.
Jesus, in His illustrious Sermon on the Mount, tells the crowd to “pray for those who spitefully use you” (Luke 6: 28)*. Various versions describe these people as those who hurt, mistreat, abuse, insult, revile, accuse falsely and calumniate—meaning, injure our reputation.
Before we rush off assuming that we would rather not deal with the troublemakers, be assured that there is a place for enemies in everyone’s life. See why praying for them can enhance our character.
(1) It's the Benevolent Thing to Do
We can respond to the misdeeds of our enemies with our own evil deeds, but we would only enlarge the hostility field around us. On the other hand, praying for them seems like the most benevolent thing to do. It benefits them and it benefits us, according to Jesus in Luke 6: 32, 35.
- "But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? . . . But love your enemies, do good, and lend,hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great."
Instead of nurturing bitterness toward them, we can speak blessings on them in our prayers. We can pray that God’s goodness in their lives would become a reason for them to share love instead of hate. Our benevolence towards them could strengthen our resolve to act with integrity and it can also weaken or dissolve their ill-will toward us.
(2) It Improves Our Attitude
When tackling any kind of problem involving another person, it is wise to pray for ourselves first. In this situation, we can pray for a divine perspective to replace the human judgments we have already made about our enemies.
- Put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering (Colossians 3:12).
One of my former friends turned into an enemy without my awareness. For about ten days, there was no response to my text messages or phone calls. There was a misunderstanding, and a rumor that she called me an enemy.
After a few weeks, she sent me a text message which I read with an enemy’s attitude, but I prayed that God would influence my response. The next day, with a new attitude, I read the same message and understood it quite differently; it appeared that she also had a change of attitude. We soon benefited from a cordial conversation.
Had we not experienced changes in our attitudes, we would continue to burden ourselves with negative thoughts about each other. Instead, we are hostility-free.
(3) It Cancels Resentment
Resentment towards an enemy is understandable; but considering how it can enslave our spirit and sabotage our health--spiritual, mental and emotional health, it pays to pray that damaging feeling away. Prayer can make the following counsel become practical in our dealings with our enemies:
- Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:31,32).
It may seem difficult to forgive our enemies, but our prayers for spiritual strength to offer genuine forgiveness will enable us to live comfortably and without ill-feeling toward them.
(4) It Helps Transform Our Enemies
Without judging the enemy, we can conclude that anyone who intentionally wants to hurt another person needs some soul transformation. Lecturing, punishing, playing tit-for-tat may never change them, but if our prayer for them is motivated by love—the divine love we receive from God—transformation can happen.
- Love is patient and kind. . . and it keeps no record of being wronged. . . Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. (1 Corinthians 13: 4, 7 NLT)
The enemy’s bad conduct may be the symptom of misplaced aggression, guilt feelings, mental disorder or any other reason which qualifies him for help. There are many reports of changed lives as a result of intercession (praying for others). Intercession also develops love, caring and compassion in the pray-ers and may lead them to seek practical and professional help on behalf of hostile individuals seeking transformation.
(5) It Removes Desire for Personal Revenge
Some evil deeds of our enemies deserve to be punished, and we readily think we know the appropriate punishment. However, the text of Romans 12:19 counsels:
- Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.
We can visualize ourselves finding refuge from our enemy's attack in God’s bosom. He comforts us saying, “Don’t worry, darling. Don’t even think of avenging your enemy; I can do that more effectively than you.”
And when it is time for the enemy to face the consequences of his actions, we can pray that he seeks divine strength to endure the discipline. We can also pray for the opportunity to help him hold up while he is hurting. Wise people benefit from discipline, and one benefit for the enemy might be that he learns to treat others with the kindness he wants for himself.
One benefit for us might be that we learn from his experience.
(6) It Produces Inner Peace
Nothing we do for our enemies might bring the results we anticipate. We cannot control their responses to our prayers or to God’s blessings on them. However, because we nurture thoughts of peace and harmony toward them, their actions will not cause anxieties or restlessness within us.
- Great peace have those who love Your law, And nothing causes them to stumble (Psalm 119:165).
If we continue to listen and obey our God-given instruction on repaying evil with good, we will continue to pray for our enemies and enjoy a clear conscience. We can rest in the assurance Jesus offers: "In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
*All Bible quotations are from the New King James Version unless stated otherwise.
© 2016 Dora Weithers